Published: Sat, January 30, 2021
Medical | By

Highly Contagious South African Coronavirus Variant Found in SC

Highly Contagious South African Coronavirus Variant Found in SC

When any case of the South African Covid-19 strain turns up in the United Kingdom - and "dozens" have according to government officials and scientists - a massive and aggressive old-fashioned system of contact tracing kicks into action (knocking on doors, taking statements about who has been in contact with the infected person, rapid testing of contacts).

"We know that even as we work hard to defeat COVID-19, the virus continues to evolve as all viruses do", Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Commissioner of Health, said in a news release when the state confirmed the first USA cases of the Brazil variant this week. DHEC's Public Health Laboratory found the other case.

The B.1.351 variant has been identified in more than 30 countries and scientists had anticipated it could already be in the US.

"It's critical that we all continue to do our part by taking small actions that make a big difference", Brannon Traxler, South Carolina's interim public health director, said in a statement.

The South African variant has been confirmed in SC, reports the CDC.

Will vaccines stop the variant?

Though there is not yet evidence that B.1.351 causes more severe disease than the more common strains of the virus, the higher infection rate associated with the variant would likely spur an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

DHEC noted that "experts agree" that existing vaccines work against the variant "even if we don't know precisely how effective they are".

The lab study - conducted by researchers at Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch - did not test all the mutations found in the variants, and researchers note that "clinical data are needed for firm conclusions about vaccine effectiveness against variant viruses". Every one of us must recommit to the fight by recognizing that we are all on the front lines now.

Early findings suggest vaccines will remain effective against the strains, though the South African strain, in particular, has reduced efficacy.

On Monday, officials in Minnesota announced the first case of another more transmissible variant, P.1, in a person who had recently returned from Brazil.

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