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Health Officials Comment on the New IHU COVID-19 Variant

French scientists have identified a new COVID-19 variant named I.H.U. The new strain is said to have forty-six mutations, more than the highly infectious omicron variant. It has since sent shockwaves across the globe even as many nations are yet to get a handle on the rampant spread of the Omicron variant. In Belize, the omicron variant is yet to be officially identified but health officials believe that the strain is in the country. Deputy Director of the Central Health Region, Melissa Diaz Musa says that the identification of new variants is always a very concerning issue.

Dr.Melissa Diaz, Deputy Regional Manager, Central Health Region: “Yes of course it’s very concerning for us, for all our health care workers but you know it’s something that we know that this is the way the viruses behave. It’s not her surprise. We know that influenza has mutated several times and we know that COVID will continue to mutate but we try to stay focused on what we’re dealing with in country, try to control the spread that we have here, try to reiterate the importance of getting vaccinated because whichever variant comes to our country the layers of protection remains; the vaccine, public health measures, keeping our hands clean, avoiding a lot of socializing all these things remain. So you know in a way in order for us to move forward we try to deal with the situation that we have at hand right now and then keep abreast of the situation. We’re looking at WHO, we’re looking at CDC and to get further information with regard to the new variants that come up but there are many many variants so far that have come up that have not been mentioned yet. There are variants of concern you know it just depends on how patients present and I think this one in France that came up I think there are about 12 persons in the intensive care unit and the scientists there noted that there was something a little bit different and when the gene sequencing was done it found this new variant. But we’ve got to look as well at transmissibility because we’ve had diseases in the world for years and years and years that never came to certain countries so we have to look at how transmissible these viruses are and when you look at omicron and if you don’t feel unwell let’s say you’re young and fit and you have a runny nose you continue working and it continues to spread. When you have a more severe variant you tend to stay at home and stay isolated so you know there are many factors that determine an outbreak, when a wave will come to a country and of course the way that we respond to these waves will tell us how quickly it will go down.“

Chief Executive Officer at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, Chandra Nisbet-Cansino, who is a registered nurse, also commented on the recently identified I.H.U. COVID-19 variant.

Chandra Nisbet- Cansino, CEO, KHMH: “Sometimes you don’t even want to click the links and you don’t want to even read the news but we have to stay on top of things. It’s very early in the face of this latest one and I think at this time it’s still contained to a small province I don’t know what they call it in France and linked to a traveler I think from Cameroon so I think it’s still very limited so hopefully the authorities will be able to contain it before it starts to spread. We don’t even know about the transmissibility of it at this time so yes it’s concerning but we have to just take it one day at a time and address the problems that we face here in Belize as we see them.”

So far, twelve people in France are known to have been infected by the I.H.U variant, although not much is known about the strain at this time.