COVID-19 test
File Photo | Photo: Prasesh Shiwakoti / Unsplash.

The Lake County Health Department announced on Wednesday that the first case of the Brazil-based COVID-19 variant has been identified in the county.

The identified variant, known as P.1 or B1.1.28.1, is being investigated by health department staff. The person’s travel history is not known at this time.

“This is the second new variant of COVID-19 to be identified in Lake County since February, and the rise of these new variants could impact the progress we have made this year,” said Mark Pfister, Executive Director of the Lake County Health Department.

“We can’t afford to let our guard down. Please continue wearing masks, washing hands, keeping 6 feet of distance from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces to keep our communities safe,” Pfister said.

The P.1 variant was first identified in travelers from Brazil who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan in early January.

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It was first detected in the United States at the end of January. This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies, officials said.

Studies suggest that currently authorized vaccines in the United States recognize and are effective for these known variants.

The health department also reminded residents that viruses constantly change and new variants are expected.

Health officials said that in addition to the P.1 variant in Brazil, the B.1.1.7 variant in the United Kingdom, and 1.351 variant in South Africa have also recently emerged.

“These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on health care resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths,” the health department said.

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The Lake County Health Department has investigated multiple cases of the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant since the first case was identified in the county on February 5. Most of the cases were related to domestic or international travel.

No cases of the 1.351 variant (South African) variant have been identified in Lake County.

“While we have identified a limited number of variant cases in our county, they are most certainly an underestimate of the number of actual cases,” said Dr. Sana Ahmed, Medical Epidemiologist for the Lake County Health Department.

“We need our community’s help to curb the spread of the virus while we work to vaccinate our residents as quickly as possible. It is crucial to continue to follow quarantine recommendations if you have traveled or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19,” Ahmed said.

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Ahmed added that it is important for the public to continue wearing masks, washing their hands, and keeping their distance from others to prevent the spread of the virus.