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Mu coronavirus ‘variant of interest’ found in 49 US states

Since being discovered in Colombia in January, the Mu variant of COVID-19 has spread to nearly four dozen countries and has made its presence known in the US states of Hawaii and Alaska.

Named after the 12th letter of the Greek alphabet, Mu was declared by the World Health Organisation as a “variant of interest” on August 30. Mu, has since been reported in 39 countries.

Health officials believe Mu is even more transmissible than the Delta variant and has the potential to resist vaccines.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, however, has not labelled Mu, also known as B.1.621, a “variant of interest”.

In the US, the Mu variant has been detected in 49 states and the District of Columbia, according to Newsweek.

The US saw its peak of Mu variant cases in mid-July but case numbers involving that variant have been declining since, signalling either a weakening of the strain or indicating a worrisome future.

California has reported the highest number of the latest variant with 384. A total of 167 of those cases were found in Los Angeles County.

The variant has been detected in 167 people over the summer in Los Angeles County, officials said. It was mostly detected in July, according to analyses completed between June 19 and August 21, the Department of Public Health said.

“The identification of variants like Mu, and the spreading of variants across the globe, highlights the need for LA County residents to continue to take measures to protect themselves and others,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of LA County Public Health, in a statement.

“This is what makes getting vaccinated and layering protections so important. These are actions that break the chain of transmission and limits COVID-19 proliferation that allows for the virus to mutate into something that could be more dangerous.”

Variants of interest are not considered as much of a potential threat as so-called “variants of concern,” which include Delta. Delta is now estimated to comprise more than 99 per cent of the variants circulating in the United States.

The Delta variant displaced alpha as the nation’s most dominant strain at the beginning of the summer.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser for the pandemic, has said mu is important to monitor, even though it is rarely seen in the United States.

“We’re paying attention to it,” Fauci said at a news briefing last week. “But we don’t consider it an immediate threat right now.”

Mu is different from another variant known as C.1.2, which was recently identified in South Africa. The World Health Organisation, however, has not placed C.1.2 on its list of variants of interest or of concern.

Another variant, lambda, has also attracted attention recently after being labelled a variant of interest by the World Health Organisation in June. Lambda, first documented in Peru in December, is worth watching, some scientists say because it has had spread widely in South America.

The CDC, however, has not labelled lambda as a variant of interest.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, tweeted that he doubted mu, lambda or C.1.2 will displace Delta as the nation’s dominant variant.

“I don’t lose sleep over new variants,” Jha wrote. “I worry about people’s fatigue with the current one.”