By Sola Ogundipe
Two cases of the highly contagious coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa have been detected in the US.
A statement from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed the cases but said a travel history or a connection was yet to be established between the cases.
One case of the variant also known as B.1.351, was confirmed to the department by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, while the other was identified by the state’s public health laboratory while testing samples over the past several days.
The CDC in a statement, signed by the health department’s interim public health director, Dr. Brannon Traxler said it was aware of the cases even as it affirmed that it had no evidence that infections by the variant cause more severe disease.
The agency said it would continue working with labs around the country to genetically sequence samples of the virus.
The variant has raised concerns over being more transmissible than other versions of the virus, and potentially evading the immune protection offered by antibodies. Experts say they believe vaccines will still be effective against the variant.
“The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” Traxler, stated.
The South Africa variant has been detected in over 30 other countries, according to the World Health Organisation.
It is about 50 percent more contagious, attaching more strongly to human cells than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.