First cases of South African COVID-19 variant detected in Arizona

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), Maricopa County Department of Public Health, and Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) reported today that the B.1.351 COVID-19 variant strain, commonly referred to as the South African variant, has been confirmed in two test samples from the state.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this SARS-CoV-2 variant, which spreads at a faster rate, was first detected in the U.S. at the end of January. The CDC has advised that currently authorized vaccines so far appear effective against this variant.

It is typical for viruses to change through mutation as they continue spreading, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants appear and linger. It isn’t known how widely the variant may have spread in Arizona. ADHS is working with TGen and several laboratories and public health partners, including the CDC, to monitor this situation.

The discovery of this variant in the state is another reminder that Arizonans should get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they can. They also should take precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks, keeping 6 feet of distance from those who aren’t members of their households, washing hands frequently, and staying home when sick.

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Posted in AZBio News.