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A woman gets vaccinated against COVID-19 in Bogotá, Colombia. Photo: Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The World Health Organization added a coronavirus strain called Mu, which was first detected in Colombia in January, to its "Variants of Interest" list on Monday.

Why it matters: The WHO warned that data suggests protection from prior infection or vaccination may not be as strong against the Mu variant, adding that further research is needed to confirm that.

The big picture: The Mu variant, formally known as B.1.621, has a cluster of mutations that "that indicate potential properties of immune escape," WHO noted in its weekly epidemiological report.

  • The variant has thus far been detected in 39 countries. Although it makes up only 0.1% of global COVID-19 cases, its prevalence in South America has been rising, and it currently makes up 39% of cases in Colombia and 13% in Ecuador.

Be smart: The WHO defines Variants of Interest as having genetic changes that affect virus characteristics like transmissibility, disease severity and immune escape, while having significant community transmission.

  • They differ from Variants of Concern, which lower the effectiveness of public health and social measures or diagnostics and therapeutics.

Go deeper

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

17 hours ago - Health

NYC urges masks indoors "at all times" regardless of vaccination status

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

New York City officials issued an advisory Monday "strongly" recommending that people mask up indoors regardless of vaccination status to curb the spread of the newly-discovered Omicron variant.

Why it matters: Dave Chokshi, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, announced the advisory in response to concerns of the new strain's potential implications.

Updated 23 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.