All you need to know about Covid-19 causing new subvariant plaguing Canada

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A new subvariant of Covid-19 causing Omicron is plaguing Canada and other countries. Called EG.5, the Omicron subvariant has been designated a variant of interest by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to a report by CBC news, the WHO did a new risk evaluation of the virus on Wednesday and put it in the second-highest ranking, alongside XBB.1.5 and XBB.1.6, which are also subvariants of the Omicron coronavirus.

“It’s something to certainly keep a close eye on, but I’m not significantly worried about it at this point,” said Dr. Syra Madad, an epidemiologist at the Harvard Belfer Center.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), EG.5 has been circulating in Canada since at least May. According to an email shared with CBC News, the subvariant and its offshoots are predicted to have made up 36 per cent of cases in Canada between July 30 and August 5.

The subvariant has been found in the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea where hospitalisation cases have also risen. However, connection between the subvariant and hospitalisation rates, hasn’t been established yet.

And globally, the subvariant’s prevalence was more than 17 per cent by the week of July 17 to 23, a “notable rise” from data reported four weeks prior when it was less than eight per cent of samples, said the WHO.

“However, due to its growth advantage and immune escape characteristics, EG.5 may cause a rise in case incidence and become dominant in some countries or even globally,” noted the WHO.

Presence of the EG.5 subvariant in wastewater

EG.5 is being found in municipal wastewater. Canada’s COVID-19 wastewater surveillance dashboard have found an increase of EG.5’s presence in at least seven of the 39 sites which it tracks, as of July 27.

Protection and precaution in the form of boosters

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has said that the next round of vaccine boosters are likely to be monovalent which means they will specifically target the Omicron family of sub-lineages.

Dr. Prabhat Jha, a scientist at Unity Health Toronto highlighted that since EG.5 is an Omicron descendant, the boosters coming out this fall should also work in protection against this new subvariant.

“I’m reasonably confident that we’re not looking at a new, new variant that is so different that the vaccines wouldn’t provide protection against that,” said Jha.