United States finds first case of coronavirus variant discovered in Brazil

United States finds first case of coronavirus variant discovered in Brazil

Minnesota officials announced Monday they have identified a person infected with a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus that has been spreading at alarming rates in recent weeks in Brazil.

The first case of a coronavirus variant that recently emerged in Brazil has been confirmed in the United States, health authorities in the state of Minnesota said Monday.

State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the discovery underscores the need for continued mask-wearing and social-distancing practices to limit transmission of COVID-19, which is spread by a coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

Minnesota has launched a variant surveillance program by which its public health lab and others examine 50 random samples from COVID-19 patients each week.

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.

But the Brazil and South Africa variants have incited particular concern among scientists because they contain mutations that may allow the virus to evade the effects of some antibodies, such as the monoclonal antibodies developed as therapies for patients with covid-19, the illness caused by the virus. The new surge has raised fears that the P.1 variant has mutations that allow it to evade the human immune system.

The case is the first detected in the US and comes the same day that US President Joe Biden extended travel restrictions on visitors from several countries, including Brazil, that outgoing US President Donald Trump sought to end in a last-minute executive order. The patient spoke with MDH case investigators after the initial test came back positive for COVID-19, and reported traveling to Brazil prior to becoming ill.

"Widespread testing is the best tool we have for tracking what COVID-19 is doing in Minnesota", MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff said. Eight cases of the United Kingdom variant have been identified in Minnesota.

More than 25 million COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the United States since the pandemic began, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

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. This case had a symptom onset date of January 10.

"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".

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