The Minnesota Department of Health announced Monday that it had confirmed the first known U.S. case of a contagious variant of coronavirus originally found in Brazil.
The Brazilian strain was found by the Ministry of Health’s variant monitoring program, according to a press release. The department collects 50 random samples each week for genome sequencing.
The patient with the Brazil variant is a resident of the Twin Cities metropolitan area who recently traveled to Brazil, according to state health officials. The person fell ill the first week of January and the sample was collected on January 9, the state said.
“We are grateful that our testing program helped us find this case, and we thank all Minnesotans who seek tests when they feel sick or otherwise have reason to have a test,” said Jan Malcolm, Minnesota health commissioner , in a statement. “We know that like all viruses, the virus will continue to evolve even as we work hard to defeat COVID-19.”
Previously, President Joe Biden had expanded travel restrictions to Europe, the UK and Brazil to curb the spread of Covid-19, especially as new strains of the coronavirus are identified.
Health officials are concerned that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus. Moderna said Monday it was working on a booster shot to protect against another strain found in South Africa.
The Brazilian strain, designated P.1, was first identified in four travelers from Brazil who were tested during a routine screening in Tokyo, Japan, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It contains a number of additional mutations that the CDC says can affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies.
State health officials also said Monday they had found two more cases of the B.1.1.7 virus, which were first identified in the UK through last week’s variant surveillance tests. Of the two new cases of this variant, both are residents of the Twin Cities metropolitan area and both reported recent trips to California.
“These cases illustrate why it is so important to limit travel as much as possible during a pandemic,” said epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield in a statement. “If you must travel, it is important to be on the lookout for symptoms of COVID-19, follow public health instructions to get tested before you travel, take careful protective measures and quarantine while you are traveling, and after Test trip. “