An image from an electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. (NIAID-RML / Zuma Press / TNS)
(Tribune News Service) – The mu coronavirus variant has been marked as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization and has spread to Chile, Peru and parts of the United States and Europe.
The mu variant is the fifth of interest currently monitored by the organization. Stuart Ray, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, said the variant accounted for most cases in Colombia, Chile and Peru, but only a few cases in the United States so far.
The mu variant was first detected in January 2021 in Colombia and has since spread to parts of South Korea, Canada, Europe and Japan, according to the WHO.
In the United States, the variant accounts for about 2,000 cases as of Friday, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data. The states with the highest mu variant cases are California, Florida, Texas, and New York.
For now, Ray has said that what is concerning is that mu is getting similarities to more deadly variants such as the delta variant, which is the cause of more than 99% of cases in the United States.
Leading infectious disease specialist Anthony S. Fauci told a press briefing on Thursday that the government “was keeping a very close eye on it.” However, he confirmed that the dominant and most concerning variant remains the delta strand.
Ray said that from now on, it is highly unlikely that the mu variant and other variants will overtake the delta variant cases.
“It is still early and difficult to measure how infectious and efficient the mu variant is. But the world is a small place during the pandemic, so we remain vigilant, ”Ray told USA TODAY.
In South America and South Korea, Ray said the various COVID-19 vaccines have been effective in protecting people from serious illnesses against the mu variant. Fauci said during the press briefing that the variant may outperform some antibodies, but there is still a lack of research.
In Colombia and Peru, Ray said the variant has shown “high rates of transmissibility,” but there is no cause for concern in the United States yet.
Until more cases or research on the mu variant are released, Ray urged Americans to continue wearing masks and getting vaccinated.
“Some features of the coronavirus variants seem to make the virus more infectious and we see some of those features in the mu variant,” Ray said. “But at the moment, we don’t have any major concerns.”
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