Worrisome COVID-19 variant from Brazil identified in SF Bay Area

The first Bay Area case of the concerning Brazil variant of COVID-19 has been detected in a Santa Clara County resident, public health officials said.

The variant known as P.1 is highly infectious and research has shown that it can reinfect people who have already had other strains of the virus.

The individual who tested positive for P.1 was identified in mid-March after returning from out-of-state travel, according to the county health department.

The county has also identified two confirmed cases of the variant first detected in South Africa and 19 confirmed cases of the variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

“The presence of the P.1 variant, in addition to the spread of other variants, is a strong reminder that our collective progress in controlling the virus remains tenuous,” the county said in a statement. “Community members should continue prevention measures that have already proven highly protective against COVID-19. Non-essential travel is strongly discouraged, and everyone should continue to wear a mask, keep their distance, and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.”

Viruses are constantly mutating, and numerous variants of COVID-19 have emerged in recent months including variants from the United Kingdom and South Africa. They are concerning as researchers believe they may spread more easily and are likely to become the main source of disease.

The P.1 strain was first found in four Brazilian travelers who were tested during routine screening at Haneda airport in Tokyo in early January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has since become the dominant variant in Brazil which has seen more than 300,000 people die due to coronavirus complications, according to Johns Hopkins University.

P.1 was first identified in the United States in Minnesota at the end of January 2021, and 79 cases have since been detected in 18 other regions across the country, according to the CDC.

Early research suggests the vaccines offers protection against the new variants, although they may be slightly less effective and further investigation is needed.

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