BY: NIKKI MIRALA
On January 28th, a new strain of the coronavirus, believed to have originated in South Africa, was identified in the U.S. in South Carolina. Soon after on January 30th, Maryland became the second state to contract the new variant. So far, three cases of the new South African strain known as the B.1.351 variant, have been identified in Maryland. The first case was contracted by a Baltimore resident with no previous travels.
“The fact that they are recognized in people who have not had a trip to South Africa means that there’s community spread and more people are infected.” States Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “you could not even imagine for a moment that it’s going to be staying essentially restricted to just a few people. So it’s here and it likely will spread more.” The two other individuals who contracted the new strain are Montgomery County residents who had recently traveled abroad on a cruise ship. While the B.1.351 variant is said to be more contagious than the most common strain, there is no current evidence to suggest that it is more severe or deadly. Furthermore, there is so far no evidence declaring that the current available vaccines do not protect against this strain. Experts continue to recommend receiving the vaccine as soon as possible to ensure the safety of yourself and those in your community.“Contact tracing is underway, and close contacts are isolating,” writes Governor Larry Hogan in a tweet. This variant is also said to be less transmissible than the UK variant known strain B.1.1.7, which is said to have been identified in numerous states including Maryland. A study, posted on the preprint server MedRxiv, suspects that the UK variant could become the most common strain in the US by March of this year. The CDC states that they are continuously managing and closely observing the virus to detect new information regarding the current strain and possible additional mutations.