First COVID-19 variant from South Africa reported in central North Carolina

Coronavirus

(Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP)

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday reported the first identification of the COVID-19 variant B.1.351 in a North Carolina resident. The B.1.351 variant was first detected in South Africa in October and in the United States in January.  

The North Carolina B.1.351 variant case was identified in a sample from an adult in the central part of the state who had not recently traveled. To protect the privacy of the individual, no further information will be released. The specimen was tested by LabCorp and selected for sequencing as part of a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

North Carolina is the fourth state to report an identified case of B.1.351. As of Feb. 9, nine cases of infection with the variant had been identified in residents of South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia. 

Viruses change all the time, and NCDHHS expects to see new COVID-19 variants in the state as the pandemic continues. Data suggest this variant may be more contagious than other variants but does not suggest that it causes more severe disease. Current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be effective against this and other new variants.

“While we anticipated the arrival of the B.1.351 variant in NC, it’s a reminder that the fight against COVID-19 is not over. The emergence of variants that are more infectious means it’s more important than ever to do what we know works to slow the spread — wear a mask, wash your hands, wait 6 feet apart, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. 

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