South African variant documented in Maryland

iStock/Jakub Rupa

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — After two people in South Carolina, who had no travel history or any connection to the other, tested positive for the more infectious South African strain of COVID-19, another case was documented in another state — Maryland.

Governor Larry Hogan confirmed the new case over the weekend, saying, “The individual has not traveled internationally, making community transmission likely. Comprehensive contact tracing efforts are underway to ensure that potential contacts are quickly identified, quarantined, and tested.”

“The B.1.351 variant has not been shown to cause more severe illness or increased risk of death when compared to other variants. The variant is believed to be more transmissible than other strains,” Hogan’s office added. “Additional research is still required to determine the effectiveness of available vaccines against the B.1.351 variant. However, initial evidence suggests that vaccines are still likely to be protective against the variant.”

Another mutated COVID strain, the U.K. variant, was also newly documented in South Carolina.  The individual did have an international travel history.

So far, 434 cases of the U.K. variant have been reported in the U.S. and it is widely believed it will become the nation’s dominant strain by spring.

Both the U.K. and South African variants are more transmissible.  While health officials caution that the U.K. variant could be more deadly, it has no impact on reducing current vaccines’ efficacy.

The B.1.351 South African variant, however, has already been located in 30 other countries, according to health officials.  The variant is not considered more deadly but is is more transmissible.

Dr. Anthony Fauci previously said to Good Morning America on Thursday that the South African variant “troubles” him because vaccines are “diminished by multifold” when tested against that particular variant.

Fauci adds vaccine makers are already hard at work at developing a booster shot that will specifically target that strain.

COVID-19 has infected over 26.1 million Americans and killed over 441,000 people, reports Johns Hopkins University.

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