South African COVID-19 variant found in Maryland

A Maryland resident has contracted a potentially more infectious variant of COVID-19 that was originally identified in South Africa, Gov. Larry Hogan confirmed Saturday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), variant B.1.351 is believed to be more transmissible than other strains of the virus, but does not cause a more serious illness or increase the likelihood that a person dies as a result of infection compared with other strains.

The variant was detected in an adult living in the Baltimore area. A statement from Hogan’s office said the resident had not travelled internationally recently, making community transmission a likely source of infection.

The person is isolating at home and did not require hospitalization, governor’s spokesman Mike Ricci said.

The state is currently contact tracing to alert those who may have been in proximity to the individual carrying the variant so that they can get tested and quarantine to limit further spread of the virus.

“State health officials are closely monitoring the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the state,” Hogan said. “We strongly encourage Marylanders to practice extra caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this variant. Please continue to practice standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and physical distancing.”

The B.1.351 variant was first detected in October 2020 in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. It was first reported in the United States on Jan. 28, in South Carolina.

Virginia recently reported the U.K. variant of the virus, B.1.1.7, which is also potentially more infectious than the original virus, and some evidence suggests that it could also lead to more serious infections and increased likelihood of death.

It is currently unknown if current vaccines will be less effective against these variants, though the CDC said that the virus would need to undergo multiple changes in order to evade current vaccines.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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