Two cases of the new variant of the coronavirus first detected in South Africa have been confirmed in Arizona, state health officials announced Friday.
The B.1.351 COVID-19 variant appears to be spreading at a faster rate than the original common strain of coronavirus. It was first detected in early October and first identified in the US in late January.
Vaccines currently approved so far appear to be effective against this variant, although research is ongoing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is some evidence that one of the mutations in the variant could affect the work of the antibodies, says the CDC.
The CDC identifies multiple variants of the virus circulating globally and nationally, including variants first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.
State health officials have previously confirmed Arizona cases of the variants first identified in the UK and Brazil, which are also more communicable.
“These variants appear to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which can lead to more COVID-19 cases,” says the CDC. “An increase in the number of cases will put greater pressure on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations and potentially more deaths.”
The two B.1.351 cases were announced by the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).
“It is typical for viruses to change by mutation as they continue to spread, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants appear and persist,” state officials said health on Friday. in a written statement.
“The discovery of this variant in the state is another reminder that Arizonans should get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they can,” the ADHS statement said.
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It is not clear how widely this variant has spread in Arizona. The state health department is working with TGen, the labs, and the CDC to monitor the spread.
As of Thursday, the CDC reported 266 cases of variant B.1.351 in 29 states in the US The Arizona cases released on Friday were not included in the latest national count.
The variant first identified in South Africa shares some mutations with the one first identified in the UK, according to the CDC. There is no evidence to suggest that the variant has any impact on the severity of the disease for those who become infected.
Other states where B 1,351 have been identified include California, Colorado and Texas. The CDC case numbers are from a sample of SARS-CoV-2 positive specimens and do not represent the total number of B.1.351 lineage cases that may be circulating in the U.S. And may not match the numbers of states, territories, tribes, and local officials. says the CDC.
The Arizona Department of Health Services recommends precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks, physical distancing, hand washing, and staying home when sick. The more widespread the coronavirus is in the community, the more it replicates and mutates.
That’s why health officials say it’s important to contain the spread with mitigation measures and vaccines.
About 17% of Arizona’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and health experts say that a vaccination level of about 70% or higher is needed to achieve a level of community immunity that is high enough to avoid future outbreaks.
Governor Doug Ducey lifted all remaining COVID-19 restrictions on businesses Thursday and removed the ability for localities to enforce mask mandates. The state health department still encourages people to wear masks when in public or not yet vaccinated.
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