MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — A new COVID-19 variant called ‘mu’ that may be able to evade existing antibodies, including those from vaccines, is under close watch by health experts.
The variant hasn’t taken extensive hold in America, but some doctors are expressing concern about mu and other variants.
“We were celebrating victory even as the delta variant was at our doorstep,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, infectious disease specialist with Baptist Hospital. “There’s nothing at our doorstep now, but there are other variants out there that can certainly cause us problems.”
The mu variant was first detected in Colombia in January. FOX News reports it’s been detected in every U.S. state except Nebraska, but it’s still rare, only being detected in less than 1% of samples.
There’s also the gamma variant, which was first identified in Japan and Brazil. While mu has been designated a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization, gamma is being called a “variant of concern.”
“Things like the gamma variant might be the one that would step in, and that is more contagious and is slippery to our immune system and certainly has shown itself as being very good at re-infecting people, even with natural immunity,” Threlkeld said.
Top health experts say they’re closely watching these new variants.
“Bottom line, we are paying attention to it,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci. “We take everything like that seriously. But we don’t consider it an immediate threat right now.”
“If nothing else we’ve gained humility. We have made a living on underestimating this virus, every aspect of it and its behavior. We would be foolish not to take it very seriously,” Threlkeld said.
Infectious disease experts say vaccines are still very effective against the new variants, especially when it comes to preventing serious illness and death.
“Most of the deaths that are going to happen over the next month are, and would be, preventable. So, everything that we can do to prevent severe illness and death we need to do right now,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi state health officer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the best way to slow the emergence of new variants is by getting a COVID-19 vaccine, wearing a mask and social distancing when possible.