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Health officials keeping close eye on mu variant

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 6:35 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2021 at 6:52 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge throughout the United States, health leaders are keeping a close eye on a new coronavirus variant called mu.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Virginia Department of Health said the mu variant has been detected in low numbers in all health regions within Virginia. VDH also adds a majority of the sequenced samples continue to be the delta variant and its sublineages.

Dr. Brandy Darby, a veterinary epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health, says the variant is not considered a threat.

“It’s not lighting off great alarm bells for us, but it’s one we’ll want to keep an eye on,” she said.

According to the World Health Organization, the mu variant was first identified in Colombia in January 2021. Since this happened, there have been a few sporadic reports of cases. Larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries in South America and Europe.

World health leaders say this variant has been detected in 39 countries. WHO says they’ve seen a drop in cases involving this variant globally, but worry about the consistent increase in cases they’re seeing in Colombia and Ecuador.

“At the end of August, the World Health Organization identified mu as a new variant of interest,” said Darby.

The CDC has not identified the mu variant as a variant of concern or interest in the U.S.

Dr. Darby says there are some concerns with the mu variant and its possible resistance to current vaccines.

“The concern with those particular mutations is that perhaps this variant could escape the immune protection that those who have previously been infected or those who have been vaccinated already have,” she said.

Dr. Darby also believes this strain will not be able to compete with the Delta variant, which accounts for over 99 percent of COVID cases in the United States.

“There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to date that mu is able to outcompete delta,” she said. “Delta is able to spread so rapidly from one person to another.”

Dr. Darby says the best way to protect yourself and prevent the emergence of new variants is by rolling up your sleeve and getting the shot.

“If we are tired about hearing about new mutations and new variants arising, the best thing that we can do to prevent that from occurring in the future is to go ahead and get vaccinated,” Dr. Darby said.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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