Two Montgomery County, Maryland, residents are confirmed to have a new strain of the coronavirus that is believed to be more infectious and was first identified in South Africa.
The two people recently traveled abroad, according to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and local health officials, and the cases are not believed to be tied to community transmission.
The B.1.351 coronavirus strain is one of a few mutated strains that have popped up around the world.
These are now the second and third cases of the variant discovered in Maryland.
State health officials and the CDC have confirmed two additional cases of the B. 1.351 (South African) variant in Maryland. The two individuals, who recently traveled abroad, reside in Montgomery County. Contact tracing is underway, and close contacts are isolating.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) February 2, 2021
Last weekend, the state announced its first known case involving a Baltimore resident. That person had not recently traveled abroad.
Montgomery County health officials first indicated the two possible cases of the South African strain on Monday, but said they were waiting on final confirmation from the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Aside from being more transmissible, the strain first identified in South Africa has not been shown to cause more severe illness or increased risk of death, Hogan said on Twitter. “Initial evidence suggests that vaccines are still likely to be protective against the variant,” he said.
The South African variant was first detected in the U.S. last month in South Carolina. Maryland is only the second state in the U.S. to identify cases involving this particular variant.
Before the positive results were confirmed, county Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles told members of the Montgomery County Council that the Maryland Department of Health has been increasing its capacity to perform sequencing of the viral strains to identify the different coronavirus strains.
Also last month, Maryland announced its first known cases of the new coronavirus strain first identified in the U.K. in two Anne Arundel County residents — one had recently traveled abroad and the other was the spouse of the traveler.
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