Just as we thought we had mastered delta, mu.
This week, the World Health Organization highlighted a worrying COVID-19 variant that it believes might be resistant to vaccines. Although the mu strain is only a small fraction of all cases of coronavirus in the United States, Illinois has only detected 18 cases according to outbreak.info. However, unlike the delta variant which has become ubiquitous, mu may have transmissible properties.
How concerned should we be?
WHO pointed to Colombia as the origin of mu. It was detected for the first time in January. Since then, it has grown to account to 39% of COVID casesloads. It has been also found in 38 countries.
Ramon Lorenzo Redondo, research assistant professor of medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said that the number for Colombia could be misleading. He said that Colombia has not done many genetic tests of its virus cases so the high number of mu may not be accurate.
He said that the noise could still be quite high. It could also indicate that there is an outbreak of this variant in certain areas of the country.
Elena Navas-Nacher from Colombia, who founded the Chicago-based Global Health Beat Foundation said that the variant has caused a severe economic impact on the country. She said that 90% of the intensive care units were full when she visited the country this summer.
She said that the most recent peak was very deadly, causing the collapse of the medical systems in several (cities), including Medelln and Bogot, which are the largest, most sophisticated and advanced. It has been a disaster in small towns.
Navas-Nacher credits the drop in cases to a strong South American vaccination program. However, she pointed out that Ecuador, Colombia's neighbor, has seen an increase in cases.
WHO stated that mu is now less than 0.1% in COVID-19 cases globally. However, Dr. Mark Dworkin from the University of Illinois at Chicagos School of Public Health said that this doesn't mean that the variant is dead.
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He said that we can't predict what will happen to a strain when it changes. We are discovering which strains outcompete the others and when they do. It could be that mu will pick it up. Mu might not gain a firm footing.
Officials from the state confirmed that mu was found in Illinois. However, they said it is not clear what the consequences will be. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not yet listed mu as a concern variant.
Delta is one of the more concerning variants and is an example of how fast a mutated virus can make the pandemic worse.
It was not detected in Illinois until mid June and is now responsible for almost all new cases. Dr. Jonathan Pinsky is the medical director of infection prevention and control at Edward Hospital. He said that delta was responsible for the spike in caseloads that started in mid-summer.
He said that although delta can infect people who have been vaccinated, only a small percentage end up being hospitalized or severely ill. He said that if mu became more common, he expected a similar outcome.
Based on the information we have about similar variants, I don't think there would be any problems with our vaccines with this particular variant.
Despite deltas prominence, Gov. At a Thursday news conference, J.B. Pritzker indicated cautious optimism that the pandemic may be easing in Illinois.
He said that a few days in a row can give you hope, but not necessarily show you the trend. So, we were closely watching these numbers. It seems that things have been flattening over the past few days when they are taken together and averaged. That is a good piece of information for us all.
NorthShore University HealthSystem infection control specialist Dr. Chethra Mthiah said that the same tried-and-true methods of reducing the spread, including getting vaccinated and masking indoors, and following public health guidance, apply to the mu variant. Lorenzo Redondo stated that the outbreak of the mu variant here is a sign that global solutions are needed to defeat the pandemic.
He said that if we only vaccinate Europe or the U.S., we will not solve the problem as other variants of the disease will arise in other parts. To eradicate infections worldwide, we need to work together.