**For previous coverage on COVID variants, watch below.
(WJW/AP) — An official with the World Health Organization said a new COVID variant recently detected in France is being monitored but isn’t currently being considered a serious threat.
Abdi Mahamud, an incident manager with WHO, said the B.1.640 variant (or the IHU variant) has been classified as a “variant under monitoring” since being discovered in November.
WHO monitors variants, putting them under certain categories. Current “variants of concern” include delta and omicron. A “variant under monitoring” is described in the tweet below:
“Yes, we are monitoring and we are aware about it,” Mahamud said of IHU during a bi-weekly briefing Tuesday.. “But right now, that virus had a lot of chances to pick up by the time from November until December — it’s almost January right now.”
Scientists say in an article published in medRxiv that the variant was detected in 12 COVID-positive patients living in southeastern France and likely originated in Cameroon, Africa.
A vaccinated patient who had just returned from Cameroon developed mild respiratory symptoms the day before his diagnosis, the paper said.
“It is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant based on these 12 cases,” the paper states.
The paper went on to say, “Overall, these observations show once again the unpredictability of the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants and their introduction from abroad, and they exemplify the difficulty to control such introduction and subsequent spread.”
Currently, the super-contagious omicron variant rages across the U.S.
COVID-19 cases per day have more than tripled over the past two weeks, reaching a record-shattering average of 480,000. Schools, hospitals and airlines are struggling as infected workers go into isolation.
Hospital admissions averaged 14,800 per day last week, up 63% from the week before, but still short of the peak of 16,500 per day a year ago, when the vast majority of the U.S. was unvaccinated. Deaths have been stable over the past two weeks at an average of about 1,200 per day, well below the all-time high of 3,400 last January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.