Worrisome new COVID-19 strain (Mu) is in 49 U.S. states already

• The Mu variant of COVID-19 has been reported in 49 states across the United States.
• It was recently labeled a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization in August.
• Early research shows the strain has greater transmissibility and the potential to evade antibodies.

A new COVID-19 variant causing isolated outbreaks across the world has health officials on high alert after it hit stateside recently, with 49 U.S. states reporting cases. Florida and California have reported the highest totals so far.

What is the new variant called?

The Mu variant, a version of the coronavirus that was first detected in Colombia in January, was recently labeled a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization last month because current vaccines and treatments seem to be less effective compared with predeccessors.

Labeled as “B.1.621,” it’s the fifth variant of interest currently being monitored by the organization.

What are U.S. officials saying about the Mu variant?

Dr. Anthony Fauci said U.S. health officials are “keeping a very close eye” on the Mu variant, but stressed that it isn’t an “immediate threat” like the Delta variant, which remains the most dominant form of COVID-19 in the U.S.

The Delta variant remains the cause of over 99% of cases in the country.

Additionally, the Mu variant hasn’t been labeled a “variant of concern” yet; if it were, it would be based on data showing the variant’s transmissibility as compared to other variants.

“An emerging variant is labeled as a variant of interest when specific genetic markers develop that have the potential to be more concerning,” Hannah Newman, director of Epidemiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Healthline recently. “This is basically sounding the alarm saying, ‘We should really keep an eye on this and see where it goes.’”

Where is the Mu variant popping up?

It has appeared in 39 countries across Europe and South America. Every state but Nebraska has reported a case of the Mu variant in the U.S.

Florida, where cases have started to decrease after the state was hit with its worst wave earlier this summer, recorded 10,162 new COVID-19 cases on Sept. 6, with 305 cases being of the Mu variant, according to data.

California reported at least 384 cases of the variant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the Mu variant currently only makes up 0.1% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

Why you should worry about the Mu variant

Health officials still don’t know much about the Mu variant, but early research has health officials scrambling to learn more.

“The Mu variant is found to have key mutations linked to greater transmissibility and the potential to evade antibodies. More studies are needed to determine whether Mu variant is more contagious, more deadly or more resistant to vaccine and treatments than other COVID-19 strains,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a bulletin.

Vaccines remain the recommended method of protecting yourself against possiblie infection.

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