The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about numerous challenges, one of which is the emergence of new variants of the virus. As we head into fall, it’s important to understand the symptoms, risks, and preventive measures associated with these variants. In this article, we will explore the latest information on new Covid variants, including EG.5 (Eris) and BA.2.86, their potential symptoms, and how to protect yourself.
The Emergence of New Covid Variants
Throughout the pandemic, several new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have emerged, including EG.5 and BA.2.86. Currently, EG.5 is the dominant variant, accounting for approximately 20% of Covid infections in the United States. This variant is derived from the highly contagious Omicron variant but does not appear to cause severe disease. However, early reports suggest that EG.5 may be more transmissible than other variants. On the other hand, BA.2.86 has been detected in the U.S. and other countries, but its levels remain relatively low. Health officials are closely monitoring this variant due to its potential to infect individuals who have previously had Covid or received Covid vaccines.
Symptoms Associated with New Covid Variants
While there is still limited data on the specific symptoms of EG.5 and BA.2.86, medical experts report that these variants generally cause symptoms similar to previous strains of Covid-19. Upper respiratory complaints, such as sore throat, cough, congestion, and runny nose, are commonly observed. Some individuals have even mistaken these symptoms for allergies. It is important to note that the symptoms of Covid-19, regardless of the variant, can vary from mild to severe. Common symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases, respiratory distress.
Changes in Covid Symptoms Over Time
Throughout the course of the pandemic, certain symptoms associated with Covid-19 have become more or less common. Loss of taste and smell was a prevalent symptom during the early stages of the pandemic but has significantly decreased in recent years. A study published in the journal Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery found that the risk of losing one’s sense of taste and smell from recent Omicron variants is relatively low. Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also appear to be less common. Additionally, cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) have become rarer. This decline may be attributed to increased immunity through vaccinations and prior exposure to the virus.
Protecting Yourself from New Covid Variants
As new Covid variants continue to emerge, it is crucial to take steps to protect yourself and prevent the spread of the virus. Here are some recommended measures:
- Get Vaccinated: Covid-19 vaccines remain an important tool in preventing severe illness and reducing the risk of transmission. Make sure to get vaccinated and stay up to date with booster shots as recommended by healthcare professionals.
- Practice Good Hygiene: Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, to minimize the risk of virus transmission.
- Wear Masks: In areas where Covid transmission rates are high or when social distancing is not possible, wearing masks can provide an additional layer of protection. Opt for masks that fit snugly over your nose and mouth.
- Maintain Social Distancing: Keep a safe distance of at least six feet from others, particularly in crowded indoor settings. Avoid large gatherings and crowded places whenever possible.
- Ventilate Indoor Spaces: Increase ventilation in indoor spaces by opening windows or using air purifiers. Good air circulation can help reduce the concentration of viral particles in the environment.
- Stay Home When Sick: If you experience any symptoms associated with Covid-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, it is important to stay home and avoid contact with others. Get tested for Covid-19 to confirm the diagnosis.
- Follow Public Health Guidelines: Stay updated on the latest guidelines and recommendations from reputable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Adhere to local regulations and guidelines implemented by public health authorities.
Testing for Covid Variants
If you experience symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, it is advisable to get tested. Testing can confirm the presence of the virus and help prevent further spread. There are various testing options available, including at-home tests and local testing sites. The CDC provides an online testing locator to help you find free tests in your area. If you test positive for Covid-19, it is important to isolate for a recommended duration to prevent transmission to others.
The Future of Covid Variants
As we navigate through the fall and winter months, it is expected that new Covid variants will continue to emerge. Viruses constantly evolve to evade immune responses, and SARS-CoV-2 is no exception. Continuous monitoring, research, and adaptation of preventive measures will be essential in managing the ongoing pandemic. It is important to stay informed, follow public health guidelines, and prioritize personal and community health.
In conclusion, the emergence of new Covid variants underscores the need for ongoing vigilance and adherence to preventive measures. While the specific symptoms of EG.5 and BA.2.86 are still being studied, it is important to be aware of common symptoms associated with Covid-19 and seek testing if necessary. Vaccination, hygiene practices, mask-wearing, social distancing, and following public health guidelines remain crucial in protecting oneself and others from the virus. Stay informed, stay safe, and prioritize your health and the health of your community.