A more contagious variant of coronavirus first discovered in Brazil has been found in the United States for the first time.
The case of the variant, known as P.1, was found in a Minnesota resident who had recently traveled to Brazil, the state's health department said.
The variant was detected through random testing that the state performs to monitor for new variants.
“We know that even as we work hard to defeat COVID-19, the virus continues to evolve as all viruses do," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. "That’s yet another reason why we want to limit COVID-19 transmission – the fewer people who get COVID-19, the fewer opportunities the virus has to evolve.
“The good news is that we can slow the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the tried-and-true prevention methods of wearing masks, keeping social distance, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate,” Malcolm added.
In addition to the Brazilian variants, new strains first discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa are also posing concern.
The Brazilian variant is similar to the South African one, which has provoked some concern that the vaccines could be less effective against it.
Moderna said Monday that its studies showed that the vaccine is still effective against the South African variant, though levels of neutralizing antibodies were six times lower. Still, the antibody levels were still above the level to offer protection, the company said.
The state health department said it is re-interviewing the person with the Brazilian variant to gain more information about their illness, travel and contacts now that the case is confirmed. The person had previously been advised to isolate and have any household contacts quarantine as well, the state said.
The state said the Brazilian variant is thought to be more contagious but it is unclear if it causes more severe illness.
“These cases illustrate why it is so important to limit travel during a pandemic as much as possible,” said Minnesota State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield.