Health leaders monitoring new COVID variant

(Gray Television)
Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 2:26 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - World health officials are monitoring a new COVID variant – mu.

Mu has been classified as a variant of interest because experts say it’s increased in its frequency.

Even though it’s not as worrisome in the U.S. right now as the delta variant is, which is classified as a variant of concern, we wanted to talk with our local health leaders about these mutations and why they’re forming.

The World Health Organization has their eyes on the new coronavirus variant called mu. Dr. Stephen Thacker, at Memorial Health, says it’s considered a variant of interest and is found most commonly in Colombia and Ecuador.

“When you take a big picture view though and compare it to what the delta variant is causing it’s less than 1 percent of cases worldwide, but important for us to recognize and understand,” Dr. Thacker said.

But what about here in the U.S. specifically?

“In the U.S. we have numerous states where there’s a small number of cases. In Georgia, out of all the isolates of this virus that we send for sequencing through the NIH only about 22 in total, since we’ve known about this strain, have come back as this mu variant,” Dr. Thacker said.

Dr. Thacker says probably every one to two weeks there’s a new variant of interest. He says what we don’t know, right now, about this mu variant is if it’s more transmissible or harmful to us than the current delta variant is.

“These mutations suggest that it may be able to evade the immune system meaning that maybe antibody response made by natural infection, or the vaccines may be less active,” he said.

However, Dr. Thacker says this theory still needs to be tested and that it doesn’t mean that our vaccines are not going to be effective if it does become more frequent in the states.

“The reason we’re talking about variants is that we’re having person-to-person spread of this infection and we’re allowing these new versions to be shared amongst others,” Dr. Thacker said.

Dr. Thacker says we are going to hear about new variants of interest until communities get fully vaccinated and some will potentially be more harmful than the delta variant.

“The fact that we’re talking about new variants is a sign that if you haven’t pursued vaccination you need to,” he said.

Copyright 2021 WTOC. All rights reserved.