EG.5, the new COVID-19 variant nicknamed Eris, is becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

The new strain descends from the omicron subvariant XBB.1.9.2 and, based on current evidence, has not been causing severe symptoms, the agency said. But the incidence of infection is growing.

WHO said the country with the highest prevalence of Eris is China, followed by the U.S., the Republic of Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, France, Portugal and Spain.

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What experts say

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson told Politico, “At this time, there is no evidence indicating EG.5 is able to spread more easily, and currently available treatments and vaccines are expected to continue to be effective against this variant.”

Reuters reported that the director of the CDC, Mandy Cohen, said that “updated vaccines in September will offer protection” against Eris, and that the new variant does “not represent a major shift.”

Cohen added, “We are likely to see this as a recommendation as an annual COVID shot just like we have an annual flu shot,” per Reuters.

Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at the University College London, told The Guardian that Eris “will probably cause a wave of more cases and all the problems that brings — (such as) more hospitalizations and Long Covid — but (there is) no reason at the moment to think (that will be) worse than previous waves this year.”

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About Eris

USA Today said the U.K Health Security Agency reported that Eris became the second-most-common variant in that country as of July 20, “accounting for roughly 14.55% of cases and growing at a rate of 20.51% per week.”

Eris accounts for about 17% of all current U.S. COVID-19 cases, becoming the most prevalent strain of COVID-19 in America, after an increase of about 5% from calculations recorded on July 22, Politico said.

Meera Chand, deputy director of the U.K. health agency, told The Guardian that the “UKHSA continues to analyze available data relating to Sars-CoV-2 variants in the UK and abroad.”

Chand added, “Vaccination remains our best defense against future Covid-19 waves, so it is still as important as ever that people come take up all the doses for which they are eligible as soon as possible,” per The Guardian.

Cohen said the CDC predicts updated vaccines are “going to be available for most folks by the third or fourth week of September,” after authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC recommendations are established, Reuters reported.