ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported on Monday that the first known case in the United States of the COVID-19 variant coming out of Brazil has been confirmed in a Minnesota patient.
The Brazil P.1 variant was found by the MDH Public Health Laboratory in a specimen from a Minnesota resident who had recently returned from traveling to Brazil.
According to a press release from MDH, while this variant is believed to be more contagious than the initial virus strain that causes COVID-19, it's not yet known whether it causes more severe illness.
“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,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in the press release. “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 reports that the patient is a resident of the Twin Cities metro. They became sick in early January, and the specimen was collected on Jan. 9. After testing positive, the patient told MDH case investigators that they had traveled to Brazil before getting sick. They were asked to self-isolate and have other members of their household quarantine.
MDH epidemiologists are re-interviewing the person to get more details about the illness, travel and contacts.
MDH also reports that it has discovered two new cases of the B.1.1.7 variant coming from the U.K., both in Twin Cities metro area residents who recently traveled to California. Minnesota has now recorded eight cases of the U.K. variant throughout the state.
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 Jan. 10, 2021.
With these latest cases, a total of eight UK variant cases have now been identified in Minnesota, but MDH officials believe there are more.
“These cases illustrate why it is so important to limit travel during a pandemic as much as possible,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield in the press release. “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.”