Most coronavirus infections begin with the inhalation of pathogens breathed in while suspended inside tiny droplets of body fluid someone else expelled.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has flagged the “Mu” variant of SARS-CoV-2 as a variant of interest.
Variant B.1.621 received its new status on August 30, and that new status was confirmed by the WHO in its weekly epidemiological update released at the end of August.
Mu was first identified in Colombia in January. Experts say it has a “constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape”.
“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 America and in Europe,” the report said.
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“Although the global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1 per cent, the prevalence in Colombia (39 per cent) and Ecuador (13 per cent) 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 report said.
A number of variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, have been causing problems for countries around the world.
New Zealand is currently experiencing an outbreak of the Delta variant of the virus. That has led to the current lockdown measures, with Auckland and Northland under level 4 restrictions and the rest of NZ in level 3.
Delta variant cases have been reported in 170 countries, according to the WHO.