A new Covid-19 variant first discovered in South Africa has now been detected in the US, after two cases were reported in the state of South Carolina, health officials announced on Thursday.
The two cases of the B.1.351 variant do not appear to be connected to each other, and neither person is known to have traveled recently, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said in a statement.
Both people are adults – one is from the Lowcountry area and one is from the Pee Dee region, the DHEC said, without giving further details.
The variant was discovered in samples from South Carolina tested by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which, in turn, notified officials in the state late on Wednesday about the two cases.
Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the two seemingly unrelated cases of the variant were “frightening,” telling the Associate Press: “It’s probably more widespread.”
The B.1.351 strain – also known as 501Y.V2 – was first discovered in South Africa late last year and is more infectious than previous variants, although it is not believed to cause a more severe Covid-19 illness, according to initial data.
The variant has since been detected in more than 20 countries, including Germany and the UK, which have both suspended flights to South Africa.
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