First U.S. case of highly transmissible Brazil coronavirus variant identified in Minnesota
State health authorities said it involved a ‘resident with recent travel history to Brazil.’
Minnesota officials announced Monday they have identified a person infected with a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus that has been spreading at alarming rates in recent weeks in Brazil.
This is the first report in the United States of the P.1 variant, which has been of particular concern to scientists as they have observed the disastrous surge in infections in the Brazilian city of Manaus.
One research study published in the journal Science estimated that 76 percent of the Manaus population already had been infected by the coronavirus. That should have put Manaus close to herd immunity. The new surge has raised fears that the P.1 variant has mutations that allow it to evade the human immune system. Evidence to support this hypothesis remains limited.
The Minnesota Department of Health said the case there involved “a Minnesota resident with recent travel history to Brazil,” and the variant was detected through genomic sequencing of random blood samples as part of a surveillance program.
The person, a resident of the Twin Cities metro area, reported feeling sick the first week of January and was tested Jan. 9. The health department said the person has been in isolation, and the department is continuing to investigate the case.
“This isn’t surprising. It’s a very difficult development, but at the same time not unexpected,” Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and an adviser to President Biden’s coronavirus task force, said in an interview.
All viruses mutate, and there are countless variants in circulation. The Brazil variant is one of three that have drawn particular global attention. The other two were first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, and are known to virologists as B.1.1.7 and B1.351.