The UK vaccination campaign has quickly become the most crucial tool in managing the pandemic. The virus’s mutation rate, however, has led to outbreaks of concern over current immune defences. New reports show the newly emerged Mu variant – known scientifically as B.1.621 – is gaining a foothold in Europe. Public Health England (PHE) has now confirmed how many cases of the variant have been reported in the UK.
A total of 33 cases were reported in people aged over 50, with fewer than five cases resulting in visits to emergency departments The variant was listed as a variant of interest by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last month following concerns it could evade current vaccine protection.
The WHO’s recent bulletin said: “Since its first identification in Colombia in January 2021, there have been a few sporadic reports of cases of the Mu variant and some larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries in South American and in Europe.
“Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1 percent, the prevalence in Colombia (39 percent) and Ecuador (13 percent) has consistently increased.
“The epidemiology of the Mu variant in South America, particularly with the co-circulation of the Delta variant, will be monitored for changes.”
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet made similar classifications about the variant in the US, despite the strain spreading to 49 states.
A study published in the journal of Medical Virology states that some of Mu’s mutations are found in other variants of concern, while others are new.
The Mu variant also carries a mutation found in the dominant Delta variant, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
A new, continuous cough: This means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours.
A loss or change to your sense of taste or smell: This means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different.
There are currently four coronavirus variants of concern in circulation, according to the WHO, with the Mu strain marking the fifth.
The Alpha variant has been seen in 193 countries, Beta in 141, Gamma in 91 and Delta in 170 countries.