Health officials for the U.S. state of South Carolina announced Thursday that the new South African variant of the coronavirus has been detected in two people in the United States.
These are the first known cases of South Africa’s most infectious variant in the United States.
Officials said there was no known travel history and no link between the two cases, both in adults. Authorities have not released additional information for confidentiality reasons, however, both cases suggest that the South African strain is already spreading within local communities.
“The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” said Dr Brannon Traxler, director of the South Carolina Department of Health Public Health. and environmental control.
The South African strain was first identified in December and appears to be spreading faster. It carries mutations that allow it to bind more easily to human cells. There is no data yet to suggest the South African strain is more deadly.
The South African variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is one of three mutations that have emerged recently, causing concern to public health authorities around the world.
“At this time, we have no evidence that infections with this variant cause more serious disease. Like the British and Brazilian variants, preliminary data suggests that this variant may spread more easily and faster than other variants, ”the CDC said in a statement Thursday.
A mutation in the virus discovered in the UK last year appears to be both more infectious and deadly, authorities say. A third variant discovered in Brazil also appears to be more contagious.
The British variant has been discovered in more than 20 U.S. states and could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by the end of March, top U.S. scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health said.
Scientists are starting to assess how existing vaccines affect new strains of the virus.
Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease specialist, said in an American television interview on Sunday that it was not clear whether the vaccines currently being distributed will be more or less effective against the new strains.
“When we look at the chain effect, this line which is the British line which is found in at least 20 states in the United States, the antibodies induced by the vaccine … seem to continue to protect against the mutant strain,” Fauci told Fox News on January 24.
The virus mutates as it spreads and scientists have warned that outbreaks of infections will generate new strains of the virus.
“We know viruses mutate to live and live to mutate,” Dr. Traxler said in a statement.
“This is why it is essential that we all continue to do our part by taking small steps that make a big difference,” she said.
“These include wearing our masks, staying at least six feet from each other, avoiding large crowds, washing your hands, getting tested often and, when we can, ourselves. get vaccinated. These are the best tools to prevent the spread of the virus, regardless of the strain. “
More than 430,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and the new Biden administration has estimated that the death toll will reach 500,000 by the end of February.
President Joe Biden has announced his intention to speed up vaccine delivery to Americans in the coming weeks. on Tuesday announced that the US government would purchase 200 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for delivery in mid-September.
At the same time, improvements in the number of infections and hospitalizations have prompted governors in some U.S. states to act cautiously to ease restrictions on businesses where people congregate.
Michigan, Illinois, California, Oregon, North Dakota and the city of Washington, DC, recently eased restrictions on restaurants and other activities.