The first case of the coronavirus variant from Brazil, also known as P.1, has been recorded in California when a San Bernardino County resident tested positive, as officials fear more may have been infected by the strain in the region.
The infection comes amid efforts to reopen San Bernardino and other Southern California counties to start allowing indoor operations at restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms.
New Coronavirus Variant
On Saturday, San Bernardino County officials were notified of the situation by California public health officials. Fulgent Genetics was the one who discovered the case during a sample on March 2, which tested positive.
A county news release identified the patient as a 40-year-old man who reported experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus and opted to self-isolate at home. The individual was first contacted on March 3 by county contract tracers. Officials are continuing investigations to determine where and how the man was exposed to the variant.
“We are taking immediate and aggressive action to contact trace and contain the virus and working with the California Department of Public Health in expanding whole genomic sequencing to identify more cases,” a statement by county Health Officer Dr. Michael Sequeira said.
Authorities first identified the P.1 variant in the United States in January after a Minnesota man fell ill after coming home from Brazil. Later, he tested positive for the new strain, which differed from the first discovered Brazil variant, P.2. California has already recorded multiple cases of the latter.
Health experts believe the P.1 strain is much more contagious than the most recently discovered variant. Officials linked the P.1 variant to a sudden spike of cases in Manaus, Brazil.
Dr. Benjamin Pinsky said the two Brazilian variants have traits that make them more elusive to antibodies that a previous infection or vaccine produces. He said there had been cases where people were infected by either Brazilian variants after already having another strain of the coronavirus.
In a news release, San Bernardino County officials said it was unclear whether the P.1 variant was more resistant to the new COVID-19 vaccines, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Sequeira said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested in Brazil, resulting in a 0% mortality rate and an efficacy of 85% in preventing severe infections and hospitalizations.
Recently, the county has gone back down to the less restrictive red tier, with officials being optimistic that they could go back to the orange tier.