First case of South African COVID-19 variant identified in Michigan

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State health officials said late Monday and they have identified the first case of the South African COVID-19 variant in Michigan
State health officials said late Monday they have identified the first case of the South African COVID-19 variant in Michigan.

The case of variant B.1.351 was confirmed by the state Bureau of Laboratories in a boy living in Jackson County, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The state is investigating to figure out the close contacts of the child and whether he has spread the variant.

"We are concerned about the discovery of another variant in Michigan, although it was not unexpected," Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said in a Monday statement.

"We continue to urge Michiganders to follow a research-based approach by wearing their masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often, and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it is their turn. We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic as quickly as possible."

A researcher at Aalborg University screens and analyzes positive Danish COVID-19 tests for the new virus variant, in Aalborg, Denmark, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (Photo: Henning Bagger, AP)

First detected in early October in South Africa, B.1.351 shares some mutations with the United Kingdom variant known as B.1.1.7.

Like B.1.1.7., the South African variant is expected to be more contagious than the novel coronavirus. The state health department said in a release there is no indication that it results in more severe symptoms or a higher number of deaths than the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has spread across the United States for a year.

But a more contagious variant could result in more hospitalizations and possible deaths, the state health department said.

Pfizer, which makes one of three federally approved COVID-19 vaccines, has said in previously published studies that it found that its vaccine neutralized other more contagious variants first identified in the UK and South Africa.

But some tests suggest the South…
Mark Hicks, Sarah Rahal
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