What you need to know about the COVID-19 variant's transmissibility and vaccine effectiveness.
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta...
The COVID-19 virus has us all learning the Greek alphabet. The latest newsmaker? Mu.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the COVID-19 virus has been naturally mutating, resulting in the evolution of various strains of the disease. According to the CDC, the four variants of concern are Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. Alpha and Delta have been the dominant variants, demonstrating the potential to spread much faster than the other two.
The Mu variant is making news, but comprises only 0.1% of all COVID-19 cases in U.S. However, it currently accounts for about 39% of all cases in Colombia, which is sparking concern amongst researchers.
What Is the Mu Variant of COVID-19?
The Mu variant, also known as variant B.1.621, is a strain of COVID-19 that has been identified in more than 40 countries including the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Canada, and parts of Europe. So far, there have been about 2,500 total cases of the Mu variant in the U.S., with 60 identified in this past month.
How Is It Different From Delta?
Delta has been shown to be easily transmitted, along with a decreased responsiveness to antibody neutralization. So far, the Mu variant has shown some similar characteristics to Delta, which led the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify it as a "variant of interest."
Should Americans Be Concerned?
Officials are still observing the Mu variant, but the majority of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are the Delta variant (98.9%), and that's where concern should remain. Precautions to avoid contracting any variant of the COVID-19 virus should continue to be a top priority. So far, Mu makes up less than half a percent of cases in the U.S. Due to Delta's high transmissibility rate, virologists have suggested that other variants, including Mu, may have difficulty keeping up with Delta's pace.
Will the Vaccine Help Stop the New Variants?
According to the CDC, vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. are effective against the current known variants. However, we do not fully know how effective the vaccines will be against as these new variants arise in the future. It's important that everyone gets vaccinated to help stop the virus from continuing to spread and mutate.
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, get tested! Testing is available at most major drug stores and pharmacies. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, contact your doctor. And here are three things you should have for monitoring and managing your symptoms at home.