Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
The United States’ first confirmed case of the highly transmissible Brazilian coronavirus variant has been detected in Minnesota, state health officials said.
Twin Cities resident who recently traveled to Brazil became ill the first week of January and a specimen was collected Jan. 9, the Minnesota Department of Health said in a news release.
“This case marks the first documented instance of the Brazil P.1 variant in the United States,” the release said. “While this variant is thought to be more transmissible than the initial strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, it is not yet known whether the variant causes more severe illness.”
Besides being more transmissible, the Brazilian variant has mutations that allow it to evade the body’s immune system, meaning the current vaccines might not work against it, NPR reported. People might also get infected a second time.
The CDC said the Brazilian variant appears to be responsible for a surge in cases in and around Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon region. The health system there hit a crisis as hospitals overloaded with COVID cases ran out of beds and oxygen.
Brazil has struggled with the pandemic and has the third most cases in the world with 8.8 million and the second most deaths with 217,664.
On the subject of vaccine efficacy, the CDC says the Brazilian variant “contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies.”
“The emergence of this variant raises concerns of a potential increase in transmissibility or propensity for SARS-CoV-2 re-infection of individuals,” the CDC said.
It’s one of three variants being watched by U.S. health officials. The others originated in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
The Brazilian variant “is probably the one causing the most concern among people watching this,” William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Washington Post. “It is fair to say that P.1 is the object of very, very serious attention and concern among epidemiologists. We don’t know why it has been so successful in Manaus.”
MDH. “MDH lab testing confirms nation’s first known COVID-19 case associated with Brazil P.1 variant”
NPR. A New Coronavirus Variant From Brazil Is Found In Minnesota
CDC. “New Covid-19 Variants”
CDC. “Emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants”
Washington Post. “First U.S. case of highly transmissible Brazil coronavirus variant identified in Minnesota”