Minnesota health officials on Monday announced the country’s first documented case of a coronavirus variant initially detected in Brazil.
The variant, known as P.1, was confirmed in a Twin Cities metro area resident who had recent travel history to Brazil. The unnamed patient was ill in the first week of January after returning from Brazil, and the sample was collected on Jan. 9, officials said.
Case investigators advised the patient to self-isolate, and have household contacts enter quarantine.
“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,” reads a statement from the health department. “This case marks the first documented instance of the Brazil P.1 variant in the United States.”
The case was picked up through surveillance, which involves 50 random samples sent on a weekly basis to undergo whole genome sequencing.
The Brazil P.1 strain was recently identified in Manaus, a northwestern city in the Amazon. Researchers say the variant was circulating there in December. The strain includes three mutations, E484K, K417T, and N501Y, similar to a variant initially detected in South Africa — which was said to “escape” neutralization power from antibodies in convalescent plasma treatment.
Moderna on Monday vowed confidence in its COVID-19 vaccine’s ability to remain effective against emerging strains of the virus, namely the South African and U.K. variants, following results from a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study.
Pfizer and BioNTech already vouched confidence in their COVID-19 vaccines ability to protect against new variants. Earlier in January, the companies posted a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study that showed the jab remained effective against both the U.K. and South African strains.
The U.S. has struggled with under surveillance to detect variant strains; the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has documented 293 cases of a separate, highly transmissible variant first detected in the U.K., called B.1.1.7, though the CDC projects this variant may become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March. U.K. officials also recently said the strain could be more deadly.
Meanwhile, Minnesota health officials on Monday reported two more cases of the U.K. strain, for a total of eight; the most recent figures from the CDC list five variant cases in Minnesota.
The two new cases were found among Twin Cities residents who recently traveled to California, which holds among the largest number of reported variant cases nationwide.
Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said mitigation measures can slow the spread of “all COVID-19 variants,” including wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“These cases illustrate why it is so important to limit travel during a pandemic as much as possible,” Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist, said in the statement. “If you must travel, it is important to watch for symptoms of COVID-19, follow public health guidance on getting tested prior to travel, use careful protective measures during travel, and quarantine and get tested after travel.”
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.