The World Health Organization, WHO, on Wednesday classified a new strain of Covid 19 as a variant of interest. The EG.5 variant has been spreading rapidly in the United States, encompassing over 17% of cases. Although also detected in China, South Korea, Japan and Canada.
WHO said that the new variant does not at present seem to pose an additional public health risk compared to other strain of Covid 19.
Collectively, available evidence does not suggest that EG.5 has additional public health risks relative to the other currently circulating Omicron descendent lineages, the organization said. It added that a more comprehensive evaluation of the risk posed by EG.5 was needed.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead on COVID-19, said that while EG.5 had increased transmissibility, infections were not more severe than other Omicron variants.
We don't detect a change in severity of EG.5 compared to other sub lineages of Omicron that have been in circulation since late 2021, she said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mandy Cohen, the director of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that updated vaccines to be offered in mid-to-late September will provide protection against the variant.
Right now, what we're seeing with the changes in the viruses, they're still susceptible to our vaccine, they're still susceptible to our medicines, they're still picked up by the tests, Cohen said.
The CDC chief said that the mutations in the virus amounted to small changes and subtypes of what we've seen before. He added, we are likely to see this as a recommendation as an annual COVID shot just like we have an annual flu shot.
Meanwhile, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that many countries were not reporting coronavirus data to the organization. He indicated only 11% had reported hospitalizations and ICU admissions related to COVID-19.
WHO issued a set of recommendations for reporting data on the virus, particularly mortality and morbidity. It also urged countries to continue offering vaccination.