WHO officials downplay new Covid-19 variant discovered in France

The variant “has been on our radar,” said Abdi Mahamud, a WHO incident manager.

Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

The Severity of the new COVID-19 variant identified in November in France was downplayed by global health officials, who said they were still watching her closely Tuesday.

The variant, nicknamed IHU for the hospital investigation in which she was discovered, “Probably” originated in Cameroonscientists said last week.

I know identified in 12 patients in the Southern Alps around the same time that the highly transmissible Omicron variant was emerging in South Africa, authorities said.

The variant “has been on our radar,” Abdi Mahamud, a WHO incident manager on COVID, said at a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg.

“That virus had a good chance of contracting.”

The news came as France saw its average daily burden of cases more than double in a week, with a record 271,686 COVID-19 cases recorded in the country Tuesday.

IHU patient zero had just returned from Africa, when scientists at IHU Méditerranée Infection in Marseille discovered that he was infected with an atypical mutation of the virus.

The vaccinated man “developed mild respiratory symptoms the day before diagnosis,” the researchers wrote in their article published in medRxiv.

“It is too early to speculate on the virological, epidemiological or clinical characteristics of this variant of IHU based on these 12 cases,” they said Dec. 29.

The WHO had not yet declared the new mutations as a “variant of interest” or a “variant of concern,” according to its website.

IHU Director Didier Raoult previously said that infectious disease experts at the hospital found seven variants of the coronavirus over the summer.

Some scientists disputed the claims because the microbiologist had endorsed hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19.

After an emergency use authorization in the first months of the pandemic, the FDA ruled that there was no evidence that the drug was effective and said its risks outweighed any potential benefits.

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* Discover a new variant of the coronavirus in France; they do not know its danger and origin