- The first known US case of a coronavirus variant from Brazil was reported in Minnesota on Monday.
- The new strain P.1, is another mutation of SARS-CoV-2 to be detected in the US, alongside a strain originating from the UK.
- The patient had recent travel history to Brazil and developed symptoms during the first week of January.
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The first known case of a new, highly contagious coronavirus variant from Brazil was reported in Minnesota on Monday, according to state public health officials.
The mutated coronavirus strain from Brazil is another known variant to be detected in the US, alongside another strain that was first identified in the UK, known as B.1.1.7.
Another variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, has also been reported originating from South Africa, B1.351, but infections from the strain have not been reported in the US as of Monday.
“The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today announced that its Public Health Laboratory has found the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the Brazil P.1 variant in a specimen from a Minnesota resident with recent travel history to Brazil,” state health officials said in a statement Monday.
The person is a resident of the Twin Cities metro area, and started to develop symptoms during the first week of January, health officials said. A test sample from the patient was collected on January 9.
The infection from the Brazilian strain P.1 was detected through the health department’s “variant surveillance program,” in which the program collects 50 random samples from clinical laboratories and testing partners and tests the samples through whole-genome sequencing, according to the statement.
“We’re thankful that our testing program helped us find this case, and we thank all Minnesotans who seek out testing when they feel sick or otherwise have reason to get a test,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a statement.
Scientists have been particularly concerned about the P.1 coronavirus strain after the rapid surge of infections in the Brazilian city of Manaus, The Washington Post reported.
Mutations of a virus can occur in areas where the original strain runs rampant, which may have been the case in the UK and Brazil. A study published in the research journal Science found that more than three-quarters of the population in Manaus had already been infected by the coronavirus, which should have put residents close to herd immunity from the virus.
“We know that even as we work hard to defeat COVID-19, the virus continues to evolve as all viruses do,” Malcolm said. “That’s yet another reason why we want to limit COVID-19 transmission – the fewer people who get COVID-19, the fewer opportunities the virus has to evolve.”
“The good news is that we can slow the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the tried-and-true prevention methods of wearing masks, keeping social distance, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate,” the Minnesota health commissioner continued.