COVID Strain Reaches US From Brazil

Variant found in Minnesota concerns Dr. Fauci because of the number of mutations
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2021 12:15 AM CST
US Confirms First Case of COVID Variant From Brazil
Health worker Vanda Ortega, from the Witoto Indigenous group, is the first woman to receive the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd. during the start of the vaccination program in Manaus, Brazil, on Jan. 18.   (AP Photo/Edmar Barros)

Minnesota health officials have confirmed they've found a new coronavirus variant in a patient, a strain that has been spreading fast in Brazil. It's the first known case in the US, the New York Times reports. The patient, who lives in the Twin Cities area and is now in isolation, first felt ill at the beginning of the month. The person had recently been in Brazil, officials said, making it possible the strain isn't yet in wide circulation in the US. The Brazilian city of Manaus has been dealing with a surge in cases, per the Washington Post. Three-fourths of the city's residents had already had the coronavirus, a study showed, which theoretically means Manaus was nearing herd immunity. Instead, there's been a new surge in infections. There's little evidence of it yet, but that could indicate the immune system doesn't protect against this variant.

The P.1 strain is thought to be more contagious than the main version afflicting the US. The Brazil version "is probably the one causing the most concern among people watching this," a Harvard epidemiologist said Monday. "We don't know why it has been so successful in Manaus," he added. The new strains, including one first seen in South Africa and one found in the UK, have some mutations in common but developed independently, again pointing to the difficulty of developing successful vaccines. But most experts predict the existing vaccines will be effective against all three strains, and Moderna reported research Monday backing that up. The UK strain, because it has fewer mutations, worries Dr. Anthony Fauci less. "The amount of concern that I have between the UK variant, and the South African/Brazilian is much, much different," he said. (More coronavirus stories.)

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