A resident in the Twin Cities metro area of Minnesota has tested positive with a highly contagious COVID-19 strain that originated in Brazil.
The Minnesota Department of Health confirmed on Monday that the resident had "recent travel history to Brazil" when they contracted what is known as Brazil P.1 variant.
The resident is the first person in the United States to test positive of the strain.
"While this variant is thought to be more transmissible than the initial strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, it is not yet known whether the variant causes more severe illness," the MDH said in a statement.
The state does routine variant surveillance testing, which allows them to look at patterns in test results to determine if a result is out of the norm.
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"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.
The Twin Cities resident became sick the first week of January and got tested on Jan. 9. After they tested positive, MDH reached out to the patient to confirm they traveled to Brazil.
"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," Malcolm added.
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State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield added, "These cases illustrate why it is so important to limit travel during a pandemic as much as possible. 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."
Little is known about the severity of symptoms of the Brazil variant of COVID-19 that has caused rising number of cases in the city of Manaus.
"It is fair to say that P.1 is the object of very, very serious attention and concern among epidemiologists. We don't know why it has been so successful in Manaus," The mutation "is probably the one causing the most concern among people watching this," William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Washington Post.
In addition to the Brazillian P.1 variant, health officials around the U.S. are still learning about the U.K. B.1.1.7 variant and South Africa's B.1.351 variant.
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