Yet another COVID-19 strain has popped up — albeit in a surprising corner of the world.
Scientists in southern Finland have discovered the new variant, called Fin-769H, reported the country’s national news outlet Yle on Thursday.
The researchers noted that several mutations in the South African and U.K. virus versions are present within this one, but combined in a unique way.
“The variant was discovered in a patient last week, so details about the infectivity and potential resistance of this strain to vaccines are not yet known,” said Taru Meri, a researcher at Vita Laboratories.
The discovery of the mutant coronavirus in Finland perplexed some scientists due to the nation’s effective job in limiting deaths. The country of 5.5 million residents has reported only 725 disease fatalities, according to health tracker Johns Hopkins University.
Meri also pointed to the country’s relatively low current COVID-19 infection rates.
As of Thursday, 450 cases of COVID-19 variants have been reported in Finland, according to THL infectious disease control head Taneli Puumalainen.
Of these, nearly all were of the British variant, 22 South African and one of the Brazilian strain.
But University of Turku virology professor Ilkka Julkunen explained that the new variant shouldn’t prompt panic.
“I would not be hugely worried yet because we do not have clear information that this new strain would be more easily transmitted or that it would affect the immune protection brought about by already having had the virus or having received a vaccination,” Julkunen said.
And Petri Auvinen, research director of the University of Helsinki’s Institute of Biotechnology, said the discovery of new coronavirus variants was inevitable.
“However, the newly discovered variant differs from expectations in that it does not genetically resemble any other known variant,” Auvinen said.
On Thursday, the global coronavirus death toll inched closer to 2.5 million victims.
The United States continues to outpace all other nations in COVID-19 casualties with 492,300. Approximately one in every five people on Earth to have succumbed to the disease has been an American.