AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine confirmed a case of a worrisome variant of the coronavirus that originated in Brazil, the state health department announced Friday.
The Brazilian strain, also known as the P1 variant, joins 15 confirmed cases of a strain of the virus that originated in the UK here, as well as four cases of a South African strain, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control. and Prevention. Maine has tested about 5 percent of recent positive coronavirus cases for the new strains, the agency said.
The patient who tested positive for the Brazilian variant is a Franklin County resident with no recent history of international travel, according to the Maine CDC. The first case of the UK variant, detected in early February, was in a patient who had traveled outside the UK.
All viruses mutate, resulting in many strains, and most variants are not of concern. But scientists around the world have raised concerns about the variants from Brazil, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, as they have the potential to spread more easily, lead to more serious disease, and are more likely to re-infect people who have had the virus in the past.
Health experts have pointed to the prevalence of new strains as a possible explanation for why virus cases in Maine have remained stubbornly high even as the national launch of the vaccine has accelerated and outbreaks in long-term care facilities. term have been almost completely eliminated.
Officials also warned of lower adherence to physical distancing measures due to pandemic fatigue and advised Mainers, especially those who are not vaccinated, to continue to wear face covers and avoid large gatherings. But Maine has continued to ease economic restrictions, and bars and tasting rooms may reopen for indoor seating on Friday.
Preliminary evidence suggests that the vaccines protect against the variants, and the vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson performed well in a trial in South Africa. The Pfizer vaccine appeared to neutralize the virus in a laboratory study, Reuters reported earlier this month. As of Friday, just over 18 percent of Mainers had completed vaccinations.