As two new COVID variants continue to spread, a Staten Island health expert is assessing the risks

STATEN ISLAND, NY — While the new variant of COVID EG.5 remains a dominant strain in the United States, the other variant — FL.1.5.1 — is causing particular concern in the Northeast, and people at risk should wear a mask, the pathologist said. The ferry is on Staten Island, and be warned.

While EG.5, nicknamed Eris on social media, is currently the dominant strain, accounting for 17% of new cases, FL.1.5.1 is leading the way in Staten Island, according to Dr. Jesse Safermoto, an infectious disease specialist and physician. Chairman of the Infection Control Committee at the University of Richmond Medical Center.

The two variants are very similar, only separated by a single difference in the spike protein, and are considered “variants of interest” by the World Health Organization, because of their steady growth and transmissibility. Both variants are descended from the omicron variant, Safermoto said, and both cause similar symptoms: cough, fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, and possible loss of taste or smell.

The variants are still evolving, Saverimatu said, and although they cause a spike in hospitalizations, the symptoms most often do not “lead to respiratory failure,” she said.

“But time will tell,” she added. “This is why variables are considered ‘of interest’ rather than ‘of concern’.”

The doctor said that patients in the hospital most of the time do not need to be intubated.

She said the people most at risk of contracting the new variants are people over the age of 65, those who are immunocompromised, including those with leukemia and lymphomas, and those who are being treated with immunosuppressants.

She said people without these conditions who are up to date on COVID vaccines and boosters are not particularly at risk, and if they become infected with the latest variants, they may not show symptoms.

“They are weak,” said the doctor. “But if they take the monovalent vaccine in 2020, there must be some immunity.”

The doctor said people are advised to stay indoors if they test positive, and to wear a mask to protect others should they venture outside.

New booster coming

Saverimuttu said the new updated bivalent booster, which is expected to be available within the next few weeks, will provide valuable multivalent protection.

“It covers even the most recent version,” she explained. “That’s what they encourage everyone to accept.”

Although it’s technically a booster shot, even those who have not previously been vaccinated against COVID are encouraged to receive it, she said.

“If someone doesn’t take one dose, the CDC says just take the divalent and you’re fine,” she said. “The CDC believes they will have adequate protection.”

She said the new booster shot should be taken by those who are up to date on the vaccines, too.

She said those with immunodeficiency should wear a muzzle. She said at-home COVID tests currently on the market would detect the new variants, and those who test positive should not venture into public, even if symptoms are mild.

But Saverimoto stressed that “there is no need to panic.”

“If you have any conditions that make you vulnerable, avoid crowds, wash your hands, and wear a mask,” she said. “If you feel sick, make sure you don’t expose others.”

Medical experts said EG.5 has been reported in more than 50 countries. And although it is spreading in China, the United States is following it closely, as well as South Korea, Japan and Canada, according to the World Health Organization.

Currently, EG.5 causes about 17% of new COVID-19 cases in the country, as of August 4, narrowly leading the XBB.1.16 variant, which is responsible for 16%, according to the CDC’s latest estimate. FL.1.5.1 is evolving, but is dominant in the Northeast, researchers say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is constantly changing and accumulating mutations in its genetic code over time, and new variants are expected to continue to appear, with some disappearing while others spread. The other one replaces the previous one. variants.

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