Michigan confirms state's first case of P.1 COVID variant from Brazil — What to know

Brazil P.1 COVID Variant in Michigan
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(WWJ) A mutation of the novel coronavirus that's been causing a surge in cases in Brazil is confirmed to have made it to Michigan.

That's according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service, which announced Thursday it has been notified of a case of the P.1 or Brazil variant of COVID-19 in a Bay County resident.

The case was reported by commercial lab Quest, and MDHHS was notified March 31.

The Bay County Health Department has been notified and is investigating the individual’s exposure history to attempt to identify the source of the infection. The county is also confirming appropriate isolation measures, recontacting identified contacts and requiring a full 14-day quarantine period for all close contacts.

Details about the person, including his or her age, name, hometown or current condition, have not been made public.

"We are concerned about the discovery of another variant in Michigan," said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director, in a news release. "It is now even more important that Michiganders continue to do what works to slow the spread of the virus by wearing their masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it is their turn. We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic as quickly as possible."

“This is the second new variant of COVID-19 to be identified in Bay County since last week, and the rise of these new variants definitely impact the progress we have made this year with vaccinations,” said Joel Strasz, public health officer of the Bay County Health Department. The Bay County Health Department has investigated three cases of the B.1.1.7 variant identified since the first case was identified in the county on March 261. No cases of the 1.351 (South African) variant have been identified in Bay County to date.

The P.1 variant was first identified in travelers from Brazil during routine airport screening in Tokyo, Japan in early January. This variant has been associated with increased transmissibility and there are concerns it might affect both vaccine-induced and natural immunity, health officials say.

As of March 31, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 172 confirmed P.1 cases from 22 states. As of March 31, Michigan has also identified 1,468 cases of B.1.1.7 variant infections in 51 Michigan jurisdictions and seven cases of B.1.135 variant infections in six Michigan jurisdictions.

Based on available evidence, current tests can identify COVID-19 in these cases. The available COVID-19 vaccines also work against this new variant, MDHHS Said,

Protective actions that prevent the spread of COVID-19 will also prevent the spread of all of the variants that have been identified in Michigan.

Michiganders are urged to:

- Get vaccinated for COVID-19. (Get info here!)
- Wear a mask around others.
- Stay six feet apart from others.
- Wash hands often.
- Ventilate indoor spaces.

MDHHS notes that this viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.

Want to learn more about COVID variants, and what it all means? Johns Hopkins has easy to understand information posted at this link.

The latest information about the pandemic in Michigan is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.