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Brazilian variant of COVID-19 identified in Sedgwick County

Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 2:10 PM CDT
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TOPEKA – A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emerging Variant known as the Brazilian or P.1 variant has been identified in an individual in Sedgwick County. A case investigation is being conducted to determine how the person became infected with this particular variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as, if others may have been exposed. No further details will be released concerning the patient, including demographics.

The variant was determined through the whole genome sequencing conducted through the laboratories at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).

The P.1 variant was originally identified in four travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at Haneda airport outside Tokyo, Japan. This variant was detected in the U.S. at the end of January 2021 and has been found in 31 states and territories in the U.S. At this point, there is still much to learn about the transmission characteristics and potential severity of the P.1 variant. Although this strain can reduce the effectiveness of some vaccines, vaccines still provide strong protection against severe illness and death.

“We continue to encourage people to take the appropriate precautions. This includes wearing a mask that fits snuggly around the nose and face and has multiple layers of fabric or layering thinner masks with an additional cloth face mask to improve the fit,” Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary, said. “Kansans should also follow isolation and quarantine recommendations, practice physical distancing, good hygiene, staying home if ill and getting the vaccine if you are able to.”

Two other variants of concern have been identified in Kansas, including the UK variant, B.1.1.7, and the South African variant, B.1.351. Variant information in Kansas can be found on the COVID-19 dashboard under the “Variants” tab.

“In addition to following these healthy behaviors, this finding also shows the importance of getting tested for COVID-19,” Adrienne Byrne, Sedgwick County Health Director, adds.

The CDC said the Brazilian variant is now the second most common variant in the U.S. Dr. Tom Moore with Wesley Medical Center, an infectious disease expert, said the latest variant identified in Sedgwick County is more contagious and has the potential to be more deadly. But for now, that’s not his main concern for Sedgwick County.

“I am less concerned about the arrival of the variant as much as I am the lack of vaccination and how slow people are at taking the vaccine,” Dr. Moore said. “The vaccine will prevent the spread of this variant and other variants, but people have to get the vaccine to stop the disease.”

Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns said he “is concerned, but not panicked” about the Brazilian variant being identified in the county.

“It’s not a surprise. It was eventually going to get here,” he said. “It all depends on how much transition this initial case had or how many people there already are with it.”

COVID-19 testing is available and free for all Kansans. To find a location near you, visit: www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/280/COVID-19-Testing.

Copyright 2021 KWCH. All rights reserved.