PETALING JAYA: Even as more study is needed on the new Covid-19 variant, IHU, epidemiologists say the prevention and control measures will be almost the same with concern largely on the effectiveness of current vaccines against it.
The emergence of IHU – which was recently reported in France – is not unexpected by the medical fraternity, which is constantly in discussion regarding potential mutations of the virus, they added.
It’s a common behaviour of such viruses to evolve and change or mutate from time to time, resulting in variants.
Universiti Putra Malaysia epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman, noting that the emergence of IHU is not surprising, said the experts did observe a continuous trend of the emergence of new strains since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The prevention and control will be almost similar to managing the previous variants, even though the long wait concern may be on the effectiveness of current vaccines,” she said.
The IHU is named after the French institution that reported the variant – IHU Mediterranee Infection. It reportedly has 46 mutations on its spike protein, which is more than Omicron’s 37.
Dr Malina said the severity of the risks posed by the new variant can only be determined after more data is secured, as is the usual practice.
“Like previous experiences with Gamma, Delta and Omicron, we need to wait for further data to conclude its potential impact,” she said.
She suggested that unnecessary international travel be avoided to curb the spread of any new variants, once deeper understanding of IHU has been obtained.
Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming of Universiti Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine said that even though the variant has only been detected in France, the authorities should always remain vigilant.
“It (IHU) has not been found in countries outside of France or labelled as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“However, the relevant stakeholders should monitor its transmission globally,” she said.
Prof Moy also said the public should not be unduly worried about the mutations as long as the chain of transmission can be broken through public health preventive measures and vaccinations.
She reminded the public to always adopt a healthy lifestyle to boost their immune system.
Covid-19 incident manager of WHO, Abdi Mahmud, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that the IHU variant had been on the agency’s radar since last November but it did not appear to have spread widely over the past two months.