LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The coronavirus is mutating at an alarming rate. Health officials are now looking at the mu variant.
The Arkansas Department of Health said that as of Wednesday, there have been five cases of the variant reported in the state. The earliest case goes back to the spring, and the most recent case was recorded in August.
"Anytime someone gets infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, it multiplies in their body, and as it makes copies of itself. As it makes copies of itself it has the potential to make mistakes and those mistakes are what we call mutations," Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the Department of Health Chief Medical Officer, said.
Those mutations are what formed the mu variant.
"The Mu variant is a new variant that was first identified in South America, in Colombia. It has been causing some outbreaks in other areas, but it does not appear to be spreading as quickly as the Delta variant," said Dillaha.
"Some of the mutations of the variant are concerning that they may cause it to be able to spread more quickly or easily, or may cause it to have characteristics that the vaccine would not protect against it," Dillaha said. "These are theoretic concerns, So for this reason, the World Health Organization has identified it as a Variant of Interest."
But in Arkansas, it's not being called a variant of interest.
Only five cases have been recorded so far. Health officials say their main focus is still the delta variant.
"Right now, well over 90% of the variant sequences that we have obtained in Arkansas are the delta variant. There are very few other variants right now that we have identified through our sequencing efforts," said Dillaha.
Health officials say if people don't take the virus seriously it will continue to mutate and become more deadly. They encourage everyone to wear a mask, get vaccinated, and avoid crowded areas where you don't know people's vaccination status.