ST. PAUL, Minn. – A variant strain of the COVID-19 virus has been found in Minnesota.
The state’s Department of Health (MDH) says this case of the Brazil P.1 variant is the first such instance of this more easily transmissible coronavirus strain in the United States. It was found in a resident of the Twin Cities metro area with a recent travel history to Brazil.
“We’re thankful that our testing program helped us find this case, and we thank all Minnesotans who seek out testing when they feel sick or otherwise have reason to get a test,” says Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “We know that even as we work hard to defeat COVID-19, the virus continues to evolve as all viruses do. 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.”
MDH says the infected person became ill during the first week of January and the specimen was collected January 9. The person spoke with case investigators after the initial test came back positive for COVID-19, and reported traveling to Brazil prior to becoming ill. With the new lab information showing the case to be the Brazil P.1 variant, MDH epidemiologists are re-interviewing the person to obtain more details about the illness, travel and contacts.
The MDH Public Health Laboratory says it also found two more cases of the B.1.1.7 variant – commonly known as the UK variant – through last week’s COVID-19 variant surveillance testing. Both are Twin Cities metro area residents and both reported recent travel to California. One had no symptoms but sought testing following their travel, as recommended by MDH and CDC guidelines. One had a symptom onset date of January 3.
MDH also reported that the CDC identified one additional patient with the variant – also a metro area resident – with recent travel history to the Dominican Republic. This case had a symptom onset date of January 10.
“These cases illustrate why it is so important to limit travel during a pandemic as much as possible,” says State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield. “If you must travel, it is important to watch for symptoms of COVID-19, follow public health guidance on getting tested prior to travel, use careful protective measures during travel, and quarantine and get tested after travel.”