MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Officials say a new Brazilian variant of the coronavirus has made its first known appearance in the United States in a person who recently traveled from Brazil to Minnesota.
State health officials announced Monday that the Brazil P.1 variant was found in a specimen from a Minnesota resident who had lately been to Brazil.
The patient lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and became ill during the first week of January.
According to the Associated Press, the person is being interviewed by epidemiologists to obtain more details about their illness, travel and contacts.
Viruses are constantly mutating, and new versions – called variants – often emerge. Health officials are also worried about variants that were first reported in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
According to a press release, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) test 50 random samples from University of Minnesota laboratories weekly through their variant surveillance program.
State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said this shows how important COVID testing is and the continued efforts by Minnesotans could help limit the spread of the disease.
"We know that even as we work hard to defeat COVID-19, the virus continues to evolve as all viruses do," Malcolm said in a press release. "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."
Last week, MDH said they found two more UK variant cases through their variant surveillance testing.