(CTN NEWS) – Respiratory virus case numbers are on the rise this summer, including the emergence of a novel variant ‘EG.5’ of COVID-19.
On a typical summer day in Flushing, Queens, the scene was reminiscent of seasonal activities. Families strolled through the park, indulging in moments of leisure by feeding ducks at the lake and allowing their children to frolic at the playground.
Mariela Sanchez, while enjoying the park, shared, “We’re trying to stay active and make the most of our time outdoors.”
Yet, despite the semblance of normalcy, concerns regarding COVID-19 still linger in the atmosphere.
“My parents were unwell for about a week, but fortunately, they are recovering now,” Sanchez revealed.
Surge in Summer Respiratory Viruses: New COVID-19 Variant EG.5 Dominates in the United States
Medical professionals are noting a surge in cases of summer respiratory viruses, which includes the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19, identified as EG.5.
Alarmingly, this variant has rapidly gained dominance within the United States this week.
Recent data from the New York City Department of Health underscores the growing impact, with a reported 594 new COVID-19 cases in the past week alone.
The boroughs of the Bronx and Queens have been particularly affected, with neighborhoods such as Flushing and Clearview experiencing significant spikes in case numbers.
Dr. Eric Cioe Pena, the vice president of the Center for Global Health at Northwell Health, likened this new variant to the pattern seen with Omicron, albeit with a slightly different evasion of immunity.
He emphasized, “It’s reminiscent of a recurrent theme with COVID – it undergoes subtle changes to remain relevant.”
Navigating Immunity and Precautions: Insights from Dr. Pena on COVID-19 and Respiratory Health
However, Dr. Pena also offered reassurance, highlighting the existing immunity among many New Yorkers due to previous COVID-19 exposure or vaccination, which should help keep hospitalization rates low.
He emphasized that while the memories of the pandemic’s earlier stages still trigger heightened reactions, the virus should be approached much like any other respiratory ailment, such as RSV or influenza.
Additionally, Dr. Pena cautioned the public to be vigilant about another summertime virus, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, advising those feeling unwell with any respiratory symptoms to steer clear of individuals who are immunocompromised or medically vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Aisha Ibrahim, a mother, remains cautious and vigilant. Her own experience with her 6-year-old’s previous battle with COVID-19 has made her prudent.
Ibrahim shared, “My daughter often feels fatigued, even during light activities with friends. I avoid crowded places for her sake.”
Doctors predict a potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the upcoming fall, particularly as indoor gatherings become more prevalent. They advocate for sick individuals to stay home and recommend mask-wearing for those who need to be out and about.
In Flushing, Queens, the echoes of both a typical summer day and the ongoing pandemic persist, underscoring the need for continued awareness and precaution.
Upcoming CDC Recommendations for Fall COVID Booster as Cases Rise
Anticipated CDC guidelines are set to be released in the near future regarding a new COVID booster, conveniently timed for the autumn season, a period traditionally marked by an upswing in COVID cases and hospitalizations.
Dr. Doron explains, “The upcoming fall booster is formulated based on XBB, a decision made back in June.
This approach involves an inherent risk, as the predominant strain in the fall cannot be precisely predicted during the selection process in June. Consequently, the booster will consist of an XBB monovalent formulation.
Nonetheless, it’s important to note that vaccines retain their effectiveness even when not perfectly aligned with the prevailing strain.”
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