Jan 25, 2021 - Health

First U.S. case of COVID-19 variant from Brazil confirmed in Minnesota

Photo of a masked person getting tested as a health care worker assists them
COVID-19 testing in Minnesota, where officials confirmed the first case of the P.1 variant in the U.S. Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty

The first case of a coronavirus variant that originated in Brazil has reached the U.S. and was found in Minnesota, state officials announced Monday.

Why it matters: The P.1 variant is one of three spreading rapidly around the world, raising questions about the efficacy of vaccines on different COVID variants and the possibilities of new outbreaks.

Details: The infected person, a Twin Cities resident with "recent travel history to Brazil," got tested on Jan. 9 after feeling sick the week prior, officials said.

  • The state's variant surveillance program helped identify the variant. Each week, the program collects 50 random samples from testing partners to conduct whole genome sequencing and get a better sense of specific forms of the coronavirus in Minnesota.

The big picture: The P.1 variant was first detected in northern Brazil in mid-December. It went on to account for 42% of confirmed cases in Manaus, Brazil, in December, Reuters reports.

  • Immunologist Ester Sabino told Reuters it's likely the new variant is more transmissible than the original strain, though there are no conclusive findings.
  • Biden reinstated coronavirus-related travel restrictions on Brazil Monday.
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