South African virus variant found in Minnesota for 1st time

Published 4:29 pm Thursday, March 11, 2021

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota health officials said Thursday they have confirmed the state’s first known case of a coronavirus variant that was originally identified in South Africa.

The Minnesota Department of Health said the person is a Twin Cities-area resident in their 40s who became ill on Jan. 24 and was tested on Jan. 29. The person had no recent travel history but might have been exposed to someone who traveled internationally, health officials said. The person was not hospitalized.

A total of 91 other cases of the variant had been found in 21 other states as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has been detected in 48 countries. While the variant is thought to be more transmissible than the initial strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, it is not yet known whether it causes more severe illness.

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Health officials are watching the situation closely because the person’s specimen had an additional mutation to the virus that may make immunity from vaccine or prior infection less responsive.

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said the new finding underscores the importance of continued efforts by all Minnesotans to limit the spread of COVID-19.