Just in time for respiratory virus season, health officials are tracking a new coronavirus variant that has unseated its predecessors and is now the dominant strain in the U.S.
HV.1, as it’s known, currently accounts for about 29 percent of coronavirus infections in the country, the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Just behind it is EG.5, also called Eris, which is responsible for about 22 percent of COVID cases.
Here’s what we know so far about HV.1, including how well experts expect our vaccines and treatments to work against it.
HV.1 is in the omicron family
Similar to EG.5, HV.1 is a descendant of the omicron variant, which has been dominating in the U.S. since late 2021. Some experts are even referring to HV.1 and EG.5 as the great-grandchildren of omicron, says Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic.
They share similarities with the original strain of omicron but have a few differences, or mutations, that set them apart, “and most of those mutations are rendering the virus, including HV.1, to be able to spread more efficiently from person to person,” Binnicker says.
Vaccines, treatments expected to still work
Despite this advantage, health experts expect our vaccines and treatments to remain effective against severe infections caused by the newly dominant variant. The reason: HV.1 is similar enough to another omicron spin-off, XBB.1.5, which is what the new vaccines target.
“There have been laboratory studies that have shown that the immune response generated by the updated vaccines are able to neutralize some of the more recent COVID variants,” Binnicker says.
Similarly, there’s no indication that antiviral treatments, like Paxlovid, will be rendered ineffective against HV.1, Binnicker adds.