New COVID Variant, HV.1, Is Now Dominating the Country—Expert Doctors Share Facts and Data
Scientists are calling the new COVID variant a "great-grandchild" of Omicron. Here's how fast HV.1 is projected to spread and who's at greatest risk, according to experts.
Just as the holidays approach and the season for cold, flu, and RSV ramps up, experts report a new COVID variant has just overtaken Eris to become the dominant strain in the U.S.
While EG.5, or Eris, comprised most new COVID cases at the beginning of September, by the final week in October a new strain’s infection rates surpassed Eris’.
Like Eris, HV.1 is a so-called great-grandchild, or direct descendant, of the Omicron variant. According to official data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), HV.1 made up over 25% of the new strain activity causing illness as of October 28, 2023. Projections by the CDC suggest it will make up just shy of 30% of COVID cases across the country through mid-November. This is a significant leap from its 1% share of the virus-causing variants at the end of September.
What to know about COVID variant HV.1
So far, HV.1 is not predicted to be more serious than EG.5 in terms of symptoms or projected severity of illness. According to William Schaffner, MD, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, via Today.com, common symptoms include congestion, cough, and sore throat. Non-specific cold/flu symptoms like a runny nose, body aches, headache, and fatigue can also be expected. HV.1 could also be more transmissible to those who have had past COVID infections or are up to date on previous vaccines, according to an expert cited by NBC News, citing its fast rate of prevalence.
Other concerns about HV.1
Although HV.1 isn’t expected to be more severe than Eris, it will still be a problem for some. The issue with HV.1 is that, according to CDC estimates, less than 4% of the population has received the updated vaccine as of November 8, 2023. This is an estimate since states are no longer required to report vaccination numbers.
Experts cite delayed vaccine shipments, insurance payment mishaps, and storage issues that resulted in appointments being canceled and people putting off the vaccine when they rolled out in mid-September, along with 47% or so who said they will not receive the vaccine.
Despite these less virulent strains, Scott Roberts, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Yale Medicine, stressed to NBC News that higher-risk populations still need to beware of this virus. “We have patients today in our hospital admitted with this on mechanical ventilators,” he said. “We definitely need to push to get the high-risk people vaccinated because that’s the strain on the health care system.”
Thankfully, according to the CDC, there hasn’t been a large uptick in hospitalizations nor positive tests to indicate this strain is more virulent than others, though it continues to monitor the new variants. Current emergency room visits associated with COVID-19 are highest among children under two years and adults over 65. Meanwhile hospitalization rates are the highest among adults 65 and older. The positive test rate has not changed appreciably either.
If you do have a cough, sore throat, and runny nose, and have concerns about which virus you have, the only way to truly know is to test yourself and take our 1-minute quiz for more clues. Be vigilant: If your test is negative on day one of symptoms, you might need to wait a day or two to get an accurate test.
Who should get the 2023-2024 COVID vaccine?
The CDC recommendations for adequate COVID-19 vaccination coverage vary based on age and previous vaccination status. Here is what it recommends:
- 5 years and older: One dose of an updated COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax). The CDC doesn’t prefer one over the other. People who are immunocompromised may need additional doses at the direction of a healthcare provider.
- Children between 6 months and 4 years old: Multiple doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including at least one dose of updated COVID-19 vaccine.
- 5 years to 11 years who are unvaccinated or received a COVID-19 vaccine before September 12, 2023: One updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
- 12 years and older who are not vaccinated: One updated Pfizer-BioNTech or updated Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, OR 2 doses of updated Novavax COVID-19 vaccine.
To find a vaccination location near you, go to vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233—also check out The Healthy @Reader’s Digest 2023-24 Vaccine Guide.