Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Saturday that the state has detected its first coronavirus case caused by the variant first identified in South Africa.
Hogan said the variant’s presence was confirmed by the Maryland Department of Health in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The case involves an adult living in the Baltimore metro region who has not traveled internationally, raising the prospects of community transmission of the mutated virus.
“State health officials are closely monitoring the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the state,” said Hogan. “We strongly encourage Marylanders to practice extra caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this variant. Please continue to practice standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and physical distancing.”
Health officials have raised the alarm over the spread of the variant. While there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the South African variant causes more severe illness, it does appear to be more contagious and resistant to some vaccines.
The first case of the South Africa variant to be detected in the U.S. was found in South Carolina on Thursday.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have assured the public that their vaccines are effective against the mutation.
Experts have said the spread of the South Africa variant and other mutations found in Brazil and the United Kingdom only underscores the need for widespread vaccination so the possibility of the virus mutating as it spreads is reduced.