Variant from South Africa found in Maryland

Feb. 1, 2021

Maryland health officials have confirmed a case of COVID-19 caused by the new B.1.351 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a Maryland resident, according to a news release from Governor Larry Hogan’s office.

The case announced involves an adult living in the Baltimore metro region. The individual has not traveled internationally, making community transmission likely. Comprehensive contact tracing efforts are underway to ensure that potential contacts are quickly identified, quarantined, and tested, according to the news release.

The B.1.351 variant was initially detected in South Africa. It was first identified in the United States last week through two cases in South Carolina.

The B.1.351 variant has not been shown to cause more severe illness or increased risk of death when compared to other variants. The variant is believed to be more transmissible than other strains.

The evidence so far about how well vaccines protect against the variant from South Africa varies. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is "slightly lower" when compared to the protection offered from other variants, according to the companies, while Moderna said it noted a "six-fold reduction" in the effectiveness of its vaccine against the South African variant. Moderna also has announced that it is pursuing several strategies to develop a booster shot, including an emerging-variant booster candidate (mRNA-1273.351) against the B.1.351 variant.

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