The announcement of new subvariants of Sars-COV-2 has reignited doubts about Covid-19 and mobilized specialists and health bodies around the world.
This Friday (18), speaking at the opening of the meeting of G20 Health Ministers, Tedros Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO (World Health Organization), highlighted the need for “all countries to maintain vigilance”. The agency called for efforts in sequencing and reporting to better monitor the circulation and evolution of the virus.
In addition to monitoring, specialists consulted by the Sheet reinforced the importance of vaccination and testing, and explained that, so far, there is no evidence to support changes in current health policies.
What are the EG.5 and BA.2.86 subvariants?
It is normal for viruses to change and evolve as time passes and they spread between people. When these changes make the virus appreciably different from the original, it is considered a variant.
EG.5 is a lineage that descends from XBB.1.9.2, which in turn descends from Omicron’s XBB.1.5. It was first reported on February 17th and is considered a subvariant of interest.
According to the WHO, a variant is considered “of interest” if it has mutations that are presumed or proven to cause important changes and are widely circulated. It changes from “of interest” to “of concern” when it is found to spread more easily, cause more severe cases or reduce the effectiveness of known care tools.
Subvariant BA.2.86, in turn, arose from mutations in the omicron lineage BA.2. In the last update, the WHO classified it as a subvariant under monitoring. According to the organization, there are only three sequences available and it was added for monitoring based on the large number of mutations identified.
Is it correct to call EG.5 Eris?
No. Infectologist and professor of Medicine at Unesp, Alexandre Naime Barbosa explained that the nickname has no official recognition and can encourage panic. In Greek mythology, Eris is the goddess who personifies discord and chaos.
If this subvariant or BA.2.86 really has very significant changes, they will be renamed, the new name will be released by the WHO and will be a letter of the Greek alphabet.
Subvariants EG.5 and BA.2.86 were detected in which countries?
As of August 9, EG.5 was found in 51 countries, including China, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, France, Portugal and Spain.
In Brazil, the first case of EG.5 was reported to the Ministry of Health on Thursday night (17).
BA.2.86 has been identified by health authorities in the United States, United Kingdom, Israel and Denmark.
Is Brazil at risk of having a new wave of Covid?
So far, there has been no significant variation in the number of cases or deaths registered in the country, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
In the state of São Paulo, information from the Seade Foundation also does not indicate a significant increase.
As for the demand for tests, Grupo Fleury, for example, said that the rate of tests for Covid-19 in the network’s laboratories in the capital of São Paulo remains at the same average as in recent weeks, 200 per day. The rate of positive results has not changed either and remains at 3%, according to infectologist Celso Granato, the company’s medical adviser.
“In some moments of the pandemic we managed to do 12 thousand tests a day. We already had a positivity of 60%”, he compared. He did not rule out, however, the possibility of an increase in demand for tests in the coming days, encouraged by the announcement of the arrival of the subvariant EG.5 in the country or by changes in the pattern of cases of the disease.
When should I get tested for Covid?
In a note, the SBI recommended carrying out the test if symptoms of flu syndrome appear. Infectologist Celso Granato also reinforced the importance of the measure. “In the beginning, the symptoms of Covid look like the common cold, but the prognosis is different and the guidelines change.”
In addition to isolation if the test is positive, some patients, such as the elderly, may need treatment to prevent progression to severe forms of the disease. According to the Ministry of Health, the antiviral nirmatrelvir/ritonavir is available throughout the SUS network to be used in the treatment of virus infection as soon as symptoms appear and a positive test is confirmed.
For quick tests, explained Granato, it is necessary to wait five days for the onset of symptoms. As for those performed in the laboratory, because they are more sensitive, it is possible to point out the virus from the third day.
Do I need to wear a mask?
The use of masks is recommended for immunosuppressed patients and those at the extremes of age when staying in closed places, with low ventilation and crowding. People outside the risk groups, but with flu-like symptoms, also have the recommended use.
What’s the best way to protect myself?
With the vaccine. You need to keep the vaccine schedule for Covid up to date with recommended booster doses.
“The vaccine is our best form of protection, so at this moment those people who have not received a dose of vaccine for more than a year, who are mainly in priority groups, should look for the health unit closest to their home and receive this additional dose,” said Ethel Maciel, secretary of Health and Environment Surveillance, in a statement released by the Ministry of Health.
Does the vaccine protect against the new subvariants?
“At this time, there is still no evidence that EG.5 or BA.6 [BA.2.86] escape immunization or impact in severe cases. The guidelines remain the same. The vaccine is still the best form of protection”, wrote the Minister of Health, Nísia Trindade, on her Twitter profile.
In a note sent to SheetPfizer stated that the bivalent ComiRNAty vaccine and other vaccine formulations currently available remain capable of generating antibodies against the strains that are most circulating in the country at the moment.