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China Issued Urgent Warning: EG.5 Variant of COVID-19 Surged 70-Fold!
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China National Health Commission Issued Urgent Warning: EG.5 Variant of COVID-19 Surged 70-Fold! Spreading in Multiple Regions!
In recent days, cases of “Triple Positives” for COVID-19 have begun to emerge, less than three months after the “Double Positives” surfaced.
Is the “Triple Positive” scenario really happening?
Many are wondering if it’s a reality and if repeated infections could pose greater risks to health. Will this new variant bring about more significant dangers?
A few days ago, the Beijing Municipal Health Commission also released the latest pandemic update.
According to the 32nd-week pandemic report for 2023, the number of legally reported infectious disease cases in Beijing increased by 3,000 cases compared to the 31st-week report, with respiratory infectious diseases being the primary concern, accounting for 72.7% of the reports.
It is evident from this data that the EG.5 variant of the COVID-19 virus is on the rise.
EG.5 on the Rise: Reduced Neutralization by Previous Infections
Meanwhile, the Chinese National Health Commission has urgently issued a statement, indicating that the EG.5 variant of the COVID-19 virus has surged by a staggering 70 times among prevalent strains.
Additionally, the neutralizing antibodies produced by previous infections are showing decreased effectiveness against the EG.5 variant.
I. What Is the EG.5 Variant of the COVID-19 Virus?
The EG.5 variant is a sublineage of the Omicron XBB.1.9.2 lineage of the COVID-19 virus, first identified in Indonesia on February 17, 2023.
On July 19, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a “Variant Under Monitoring” (VUM), and on August 9, it was reclassified as a “Variant of Interest” (VOI), prompting a heightened global assessment of its characteristics and public health risks.
Currently, there are three COVID-19 virus lineages classified as VOIs globally, including the EG.5 variant, XBB.1.5 variant, and XBB.1.16 variant, all belonging to the XBB lineage.
II. What Biological Changes Characterize the EG.5 Variant?
The EG.5 variant has seen rapid growth in prevalence among global viral strains, demonstrating stronger transmission capabilities. Domestic and international research indicates that the EG.5 variant’s transmission advantage primarily stems from its enhanced immune evasion capabilities, with reduced neutralization by antibodies generated from prior infections.
Data from China reveals that clinical classifications of EG.5 variant-infected individuals do not significantly differ from those infected with other XBB sublineages.
In recent times, some countries with the prevalence of the EG.5 variant, such as the United States, Japan, and South Korea, have reported an increase in hospitalizations.
However, there is no evidence suggesting that infection with the EG.5 variant leads to a significant increase in disease severity.
As of August 9, the WHO assessment states that the EG.5 variant exhibits enhanced transmission and immune evasion capabilities but does not show substantial changes in pathogenicity, nor does it pose a significantly higher global public health risk. Based on current evidence, the global risk level of the EG.5 variant is assessed as low.
III. How Is the EG.5 Variant Spreading Globally?
Since May, the EG.5 variant’s proportion among global viral strains has rapidly increased. As of August 17, the EG.5 variant has been detected in at least 52 countries or regions worldwide. Across continents, except for Africa where sequencing data is limited, the EG.5 variant’s prevalence has shown a noticeable upward trend in Asia, Europe, Oceania, North America, and South America.
IV. What Is the Prevalence of the EG.5 Variant in China?
Monitoring results in China indicate that the EG.5 variant’s proportion among prevalent COVID-19 strains is on the rise.
It has grown from 0.6% in April to 71.6% in August, establishing dominance in most Chinese provinces. This trend is likely to continue in the near future.
China experienced the prevalence of the Omicron XBB lineage variants from April to June, and the immunity developed during this time still offers protection against the EG.5 variant, which belongs to the same XBB sublineage.
Currently, the national COVID-19 situation remains at a low level, with localized outbreaks and minimal pressure on healthcare systems, suggesting that large-scale outbreaks are unlikely in the short term.
V. How Can the Public Protect Themselves?
Just as in preventing infections with other Omicron variants of the COVID-19 virus, the public should continue to maintain good personal hygiene habits, adhere to regular sleep schedules, keep their living spaces clean, ventilate rooms regularly, engage in regular physical activity, maintain a healthy diet, and boost their immune systems.
It is advised that the public, especially older individuals and those with underlying health conditions, wear masks scientifically when using public transportation or entering crowded indoor public spaces.
Has the Six-Month “Positive Cycle” Been Broken? Increase in Moderate to Severe Cases!
Based on current data and the prevailing situation, it appears that COVID-19 does not exhibit seasonality. With declining antibody levels in the human body, some individuals may experience 2-3 infections.
Dr. Hu Yang, Deputy Director of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at the Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital, wrote in May 2023 that there is still a significant number of outpatient COVID-19 cases these days, with various types of cases emerging simultaneously.
This includes young patients with mild symptoms, middle-aged and elderly patients with significant symptoms but no lung infection, and high-risk individuals progressing to white lung. Recently, there has been a change in the proportions of these cases.
The proportion of mild cases is no longer increasing, and moderate to severe cases are on the rise, with a corresponding increase in proportions.
Some patients visit fever clinics, while others arrive at clinics with symptoms and undergo CT scans, revealing significant lung involvement.
For high-risk individuals, especially those who previously had pneumonia due to COVID-19, the probability of severe consequences upon reinfection is higher.
This is mainly because individuals who have had a prior infection generally have antibodies in their bodies, and testing positive again suggests insufficient antibodies and reduced immune defenses, making them susceptible to white lung.
By early June, the increase in reported COVID-19 cases was less steep, and moderate to severe cases were on the rise.
Most of these patients were those who became severely ill upon their first infection, and as severe cases increased, most people who could test positive had already done so, indicating that the virus’s spread was on the decline.
However, this outbreak is unlikely to end as abruptly as the previous one. Some people will continue to be infected, driven by differences in individual immunity and the rate at which antibodies decline.
- Besides the EG.5 variant, there are the XBB.1.5 and XBB.1.16 variants, all belonging to the XBB lineage.
- Data suggests that a combination of immunity (infection + vaccination) provides better protection.
- Priority vaccination is recommended for individuals over 60, those aged 18 to 59 with serious underlying health conditions, individuals with weakened immune systems, and those at high risk of infection (as they are not only highly susceptible to reinfection but also at risk of severe consequences).
- Stimulating mucosal immune responses in the lungs may be the most effective way to prevent infection and transmission.
China National Health Commission Issued Urgent Warning: EG.5 Variant of COVID-19 Surged 70-Fold!
(source:internet, reference only)