Coronavirus Variant EG.5 Takes Top Spot from ‘Arcturus’

Coronavirus Variant EG.5 Takes Top Spot from ‘Arcturus’

A new coronavirus strain has taken over as the top variant circulating in the U.S.

EG.5 was responsible for more than 17% of new coronavirus cases over the past two weeks, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s the highest prevalence of any strain circulating, rising above the so-called “arcturus” variant, which caused nearly 16% of infections.

EG.5 is also increasing globally. The World Health Organization last month upgraded EG.5 to a “variant under monitoring,” which is a step below a “variant of concern” – its classification for arcturus. According to WHO, EG.5’s global prevalence nearly doubled from mid-June to mid-July. It’s been documented in 45 countries.

The strain is a descendent of XBB.1.9.2 but with an additional mutation. As of July, WHO reported “no evidence of rising cases and deaths or a change in disease severity associated with EG.5.”

The developments come as COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing in the U.S. While the increases are small, it’s the first uptick the U.S. has seen since December. Experts say that a slight summer increase isn’t a shock but that it should serve as a wake-up call to treat the virus seriously before winter rolls around.

XBB.1.5, which will be the target of the updated COVID-19 vaccines coming in the fall, is decreasing in the U.S. Still, health experts say that the shot should work on other omicron sub variants as well.

Health officials hope that the upcoming fall booster campaign will increase protection against the coronavirus ahead of a potential fall and winter wave.