MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Department of Health Monday confirmed that it has found the nation's first documented case of the Brazil P.1 coronavirus variant. The patient is a resident of the Twin Cities metro area who recently traveled to Brazil.
The Brazil P.1 variant is more transmissible than more common forms of the coronavirus, but it's not yet known if it causes more severe illness, health officials said. The variant was found through the health department's variant surveillance program.
"We’re thankful that our testing program helped us find this case, and we thank all Minnesotans who seek out testing when they feel sick or otherwise have reason to get a test," Minnesota's commissioner of health, Jan Malcolm, said in a statement.
"We know that even as we work hard to defeat COVID-19, the virus continues to evolve as all viruses do," she said. "That’s yet another reason why we want to limit COVID-19 transmission — the fewer people who get COVID-19, the fewer opportunities the virus has to evolve. The good news is that we can slow the spread of this variant and all COVID-19 variants by using the tried-and-true prevention methods of wearing masks, keeping social distance, staying home when sick, and getting tested when appropriate."
The patient became ill in the first week of January after he or she traveled to Brazil. "One of the reasons we are able to detect those variants of concern in Minnesota so quickly is that we have one of the best public health laboratory surveillance systems in the U.S.," Malcolm added.
In addition to the Brazil variant, eight U.K. variant cases have also been identified in Minnesota.
"These cases illustrate why it is so important to limit travel during a pandemic as much as possible,” state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said. “If you must travel, it is important to watch for symptoms of COVID-19, follow public health guidance on getting tested prior to travel, use careful protective measures during travel, and quarantine and get tested after travel."
Starting Tuesday, passengers flying to the U.S. must submit a negative test within three days of boarding their light. "Widespread testing is the best tool we have for tracking what COVID-19 is doing in Minnesota," health department Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff said.
"Broad testing is also the best way to find asymptomatic cases, which we know can still spread the virus to others," he added. "Testing is a key tool in our toolbox to mitigate the impact of this pandemic: Test, isolate, quarantine, practice social distancing, wear a mask, avoid gatherings outside your household whenever possible, and stay home if you are ill."