Infectious disease experts across the U.S. are watching a new COVID-19 variant that could wreak havoc on the fall and winter months. The new variant is called Mu, and while it’s been reported on in recent weeks, there’s growing concern among infectious disease experts that it could evade existing antibodies rendering COVID vaccines useless in fighting the new strain.
Good news right now for Americans is that the Mu variant hasn’t been extensively reported in the U.S., which means that there is still time to prepare. Experts say vaccines already on the market are the best defense against it – even though there are concerns about whether they can stand up to the Mu variant.
“We were celebrating victory even as the delta variant was at our doorstep,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld. He’s an infectious disease specialist at 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 Columbia in January. Since then it’s been reported in every U.S. state except Nebraska. It accounts for around 1% of samples collected. Other variants like Gamma, have raised concerns with how effective vaccines could be against them – but experts say it comes down to preventing serious illness.
“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.
The CDC says that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best tool the U.S. has against the virus. Social distancing and masking when possible are also good measures.