The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is reporting the first identification in a Missouri resident of the COVID-19 variant, B.1.351, which was first identified in South Africa in December 2020 and began being reported in the United States in late January.
The B.1.351 variant was identified in a sample from an adult living in Jackson County. To protect the privacy of the individual, no further information will be released about the patient. The variant was determined through the whole genome sequencing conducted through a commercial laboratory.
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows 374 cases have been reported to the CDC in the United States as of April 5. At least 34 states have identified cases thus far.
At this point, this variant is not known to cause more severe disease and it is not clear whether it spreads more readily than other strains. Although this strain can reduce the effectiveness of some vaccines, vaccines still provide strong protection against severe illness and death.
“We continue to encourage prevention measures to be in place as we identify more positive cases of these variants,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of DHSS. “We also continue to ask that individuals consider getting vaccinated when they are able. The vaccines that are currently available in the United States appear to be effective against these variant viruses.”
Another variant of concern, B.1.1.7, also known as the UK variant, was first identified in Missouri in February 2021, and there are currently 35 cases in the state. This variant was first reported in the U.S. at the end of December 2020. Evidence from the UK indicates that this variant spreads much more quickly through the population and, given that fact, may rapidly increase the number of hospitalizations and deaths. More studies are needed to confirm this finding.