Variants and Vaccines: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and now Mu?

by Allecia Harley, MPH on September 2, 2021

Blog Cover of Keeping Eyes Open - Exhausted

You must be wondering how concerned you need to be about the Mu variant of the coronavirus.

On a scale of “completely uninterested” to “my hair is on fire,” this variant is in the “let me keep my eye on it” category.

Honestly, most of us don’t know the Greek alphabet, but we can guess that Mu doesn’t come after Delta, and we’d be right. That means one of two things, 1) the World Health Organization (WHO) is skipping letters, or 2) we’ve been so engrossed in the Delta variant that we missed Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda.

I can assure you, WHO is not skipping letters, as they have a webpage dedicated to coronavirus variants. The reality is we’ve been focused almost exclusively on the Delta variant after the Alpha and Beta variants became less common in the US population.

So why is the Mu variant in the news suddenly, and what about the others before it?

Medical scientists are watching the Mu variant closely because it may be unique enough to evade the protection we receive when we get vaccinated. One day, we may find ourselves in a situation where the cops (vaccines) are outsmarted by the criminals (mutating viruses). Scientists are working hard to predict and identify when that day has arrived.

We don’t appear to be there yet, but WHO has added Mu to “Variants of Interest” while the Delta variant is a “Variants of Concern.” Mu is absent from both lists on the CDC website at 10 am CT on September 2, 2021.

Many of the other variants between Delta and Mu sit quietly on WHO and the CDC’s Variants of Interest lists. They have not posed a significant enough threat to the US population to become a Variant of Concern.

Until we get more information from WHO on Mu, we will CDC with our eyes wide open.


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