Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health/Social Development
The Ministry of Health and Social Development has confirmed that the Mu Variant is present in the Virgin Islands.
The discovery was made on Sunday, September 5 when two of three samples genetically sequenced by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) returned positive.
Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ronald Georges said the Mu variant or variant B.1.621.1, as it was called, was previously identified in the Territory and at that time was not designated as “variant of interest” nor “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization. The variant has since been designated Mu and a “variant of interest’ by the World Health Organization on August 30. Dr. Georges said the cases identified now and previously were all quarantined and cleared in accordance with established protocols.
Mu was first identified in Columbia and has since been detected in 39 countries. While the variant makes up less than 0.1% of COVID infections, it is increasing in prevalence in specific South American countries.
“Evidence is still being gathered but Mu does have the potential to become a ‘variant of concern.’ Dr. Georges said, adding, “Mu appears to have a number of mutations that indicate it may have potential for immune escape but it is not yet known if it may escape vaccine immunity or if it is more transmissible or causes more severe disease.”
Dr. Georges further stated that the Delta variant continues to be the main variant of concern and that the Mu does not seem to be out-competing Delta presently in areas where that variant is prevalent.
The Acting Chief Medical Officer also cautioned the public to continue to take personal responsibility and adhere to public health measures, and quarantine guidelines.
“All persons should adhere to all quarantine requirements to limit the spread of COVID-19. All positive cases should ensure that they follow the isolation guidelines and continue to take every opportunity to get vaccinated. Vaccination and adherence to public health measures continues to be our two most important weapons against COVID-19,” Dr. Georges said.
A variant of interest, according to the CDC shows: "specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced neutralisation by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination, reduced efficacy of treatments, potential diagnostic impact, or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity.
A variant of interest might require one or more appropriate public health actions, including enhanced sequence surveillance, enhanced laboratory characterisation, or epidemiological investigations to assess how easily the virus spreads to others, the severity of disease, the efficacy of therapeutics and whether currently authorised vaccines offer protection.
Please stay healthy and safe! We will get through this together.
The Government of the Virgin Islands is committed to improving the health of the people of the Virgin Islands.