Minnesota officials announced Monday, January 25, 2021, 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 so-called P.1 variant.
The Minnesota Department of Health said the case involved “a Minnesota resident with recent travel history to Brazil,” and the variant was detected through genomic sequencing of random blood samples. The person, a resident of the Twin Cities metro area, reported feeling sick the first week of January and was tested on Jan. 9.
“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 response team, 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. There is some overlap in the mutations in the three variants, but they arose independently and, along with other variants under review, provide a vivid reminder that the coronavirus is not a static target for vaccines and the human immune system.