The Mu Variant, another highly contagious and deadly member of the COVID-19 family has now taken up residence in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In a news release, the Ministry of Health has confirmed the arrival of the variant which almost crippled Columbia’s healthcare system during the summer.
“A single individual has been identified with the Mu variant in the TCI,” the Ministry of Health said in the news release. “This result was included in the last batch of results received from the Caribbean Public Health Agency for sequencing on 30th July 2021.”
The ministry said at that time, the variant was listed among eight other results received in which identified four cases of the delta variant.
“The individual has since recovered,” the Ministry of Health revealed.
Although the Mu variant has added to the work of health officials, the Ministry of Health maintained that the delta variant remains the dominant infection source, circulating in at least 170 countries since it was first identified in October 2020 and has rapidly spread and is highly transmissible.
“It may also be associated with more severe disease,” the Ministry of Health continued.
The WHO, late August, added the Mu variant-- known by scientists as B1621-- to the list of "variants of interest" because of preliminary evidence that it can evade antibodies.
The Mu variant has a "constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape," noted a WHO weekly update published on August 31.
The WHO pointed out that all viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19, mutate over time and most changes have little or no effect on the properties of the virus.
It added, however, that certain mutations can alter how easily a virus spreads, the severity of the disease it causes, or its resistance to vaccines and drugs.
The WHO's variant of interest (VOI) designation suggests that the strain has genetic changes that may affect virus characteristics, such as increased transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape.
The WHO also lists four coronavirus variants of concern (VOCs): Delta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
Mu was first identified in Colombia in January. About 4,500 cases of the Mu variant have been reported across the globe, with more than half of them discovered in the United States. It has also been reported in other South American countries, Europe, Japan and Hong Kong.
The variant was responsible for Colombia's deadly third infection wave between April and June, it was reported.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health is insisting that vaccines remain critical to the overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic and are still shown to be effective in reducing the risk of contracting COVID19, as well as preventing hospitalization and death including against the circulating variants.
The Ministry of Health reminds the general public of the importance of following public health advice including;
Washing of hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
The using of alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
Maintaining physical distancing of 6 feet between persons;
Wearing of face coverings in public settings (covering nose and mouth);
Avoidance of mass gatherings or crowds;
Covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or use disposable tissues;
Comply with public health measures;
Stay home where possible, especially if you are a member of the vulnerable group;
According to the Health Ministry, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 which include; cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, fever, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell, to stay home and contact the Health Hotlines on 232 9444 or 333 0911.
One should not visit health care facilities if symptoms or if experiencing signs of COVID-19, but to call the Health Hotlines for guidance unless are symptoms are severe.
According to the Ministry of Health, If you are under quarantine by the Public Health Team, to remain at home and comply with the guidance provided.
“If you are contacted by the Public Health Team as a part of contact tracing activities, please provide all of the information requested to assist them in their investigations.
“Get tested-visit your community testing sites for free testing offered by the Ministry of Health. Stay informed with the latest information from the Ministry of Health by visiting our website on https://www.gov.tc/moh/coronavirus/ or other credible sources
“Register online to get the COVID-19 vaccine which is available to all TCI residents 12 years old and above,” the Ministry of Health noted.