MINNEAPOLIS: A new Brazilian variant of the coronavirus has made its first known appearance in the United States, in a person who had recently returned to Minnesota after travelling to that country, state health officials announced on Monday (Jan 25).
The virus known as the Brazil P1 variant was found in a specimen from a patient who lives in the Minneapolis-St Paul area and became ill the first week of January, the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement.
Epidemiologists were re-interviewing the person to obtain more details about the person’s illness, travel and contacts.
There was no immediate indication that the variant was spreading in the state.
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. Researchers believe they may spread more easily than the virus that has been sickening millions in the United States and that has caused nearly 420,000 deaths.
The Brazilian variant was first identified in four travellers who were tested at an airport outside Tokyo, Japan. It contains a set of mutations that may affect its ability to be recognised by antibodies, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some researchers have raised a concern that the Brazilian variant may be able to re-infect people who already were sickened by COVID-19.