US: African coronavirus variant in South Carolina
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine effective against strain; Moderna’s could be less effective, companies say
The first case of the South African coronavirus variant was reported in the US state of South Carolina, its health department announced Thursday.
Two cases associated with the variant were detected, the agency said in a statement.
South Carolina health officials said they were notified late Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the variant.
“Experts agree that existing vaccines work to protect us from this variant, even if we don’t know precisely how effective they are. At this time, there’s no evidence to suggest that the B.1.351 variant causes more severe illness,” it said.
The CDC said in a separate statement that it is at an early stage to understand the variant.
“At this time, we have no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease. Like the U.K. and Brazilian variants, preliminary data suggests this variant may spread more easily and quickly than other variants,” it said.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Thursday that the variant is of “greater concern” and “really could be problematic.”
Pfizer-BioNTech said late Wednesday that their vaccine is effective against virus strains detected in the UK and South Africa.
Moderna announced Monday that its vaccine appears to work against the strain found in the UK but said it could be less effective against the one in South Africa.
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine effective against strain; Moderna's could be less effective, companies say – Anadolu Agency
First U.S. Cases Of South Africa Coronavirus Strain Discovered In South Carolina
A new, more contagious coronavirus strain first identified in South Africa has reached the United States, with health officials on Thursday reporting two positive cases of the strain in South Carolina, the latest coronavirus mutation to arrive in the United States and fuel fears about how it could impact the country’s Covid-19 infection rate.
Doctor in protective gloves & workwear holding open test tube and taking out sampling swab for novel . [+] Covid-19 test in laboratory.
Two unrelated people tested positive for the strain, marking the country’s first confirmed cases, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said.
The two patients live in different regions of the state, South Carolina officials said, and they have no known travel history, meaning somebody else with the strain likely infected them in the United States.
This new coronavirus variant was discovered in South Africa last year, where it’s been partly blamed for fueling an uptick in infections, and it has spread to dozens of other countries. Researchers believe the strain is about 50% more contagious than other versions of the virus, posing a risk for overstretched hospitals, but there is currently no evidence the variant leads to more severe infections or a higher death rate. President Joe Biden restricted travel from South Africa to the United States this week, but many scientists say its arrival in the country is unsurprising.
What To Watch For
Researchers are still studying whether existing Covid-19 vaccines and treatments are effective against the new strain. Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna published studies this week indicating their vaccines still work against the South Africa strain, though Moderna is developing a booster shot designed to maximize immunity to new versions of the virus. Meanwhile, some experts worry antibody treatments could be less effective against this variant: Dr. Anthony Fauci called the South Africa strain “concerning” last week.
It’s common for viruses to mutate, and the South Africa strain isn’t the only new coronavirus variant scientists are tracking. Highly contagious strains that were first identified in the United Kingdom and Brazil have also reached the United States in recent weeks.
“We know that viruses mutate to live and live to mutate,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, South Carolina’s public health director, said in a statement.
Experts believe the new variant is more contagious than other versions of the coronavirus.