CNBC's Meg Tirrell says the CDC is recommending more safety measures to fight new coronavirus variants coming into the country from the United Kingdom and South Africa. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:
The first Covid-19 cases in the U.S. of a new, highly contagious strain of the virus first found in South Africa have been detected in South Carolina, the state’s health department said Thursday.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said the strain, known as B.1.351, was found in two adults with no history of travel or connection to one another. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified South Carolina health officials late Wednesday that a sample that was tested at LabCorp was the B.1.351 variant, the health department said Thursday.
The state’s own public health lab later “identified a separate case of the same variant” in a sample tested on Monday, the South Carolina Department of Health said in a statement. While the strain appears to be highly transmissible, it doesn’t appear to make people sicker, the health department said.
“The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, the department’s interim director, said in a statement.
Mutated strains of the coronavirus have migrated to the U.S. in recent weeks. Minnesota health officials on Monday identified the first U.S. case of a similar variant that was first detected in Brazil. The U.S. has also identified more than 300 cases with another strain first found in the United Kingdom, known as B.1.1.7, according to recent data from the CDC.
The appearance of these new strains hasn’t come as a surprise to scientists. The U.S. is quickly trying to ramp up its surveillance efforts to track the new strains through genomic sequencing, which could be coming from abroad or “emanating from our own country,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s new director, said last week.
“CDC is early in its efforts to understand this variant and will continue to provide updates as we learn more,” the health agency said in a statement. “CDC’s recommendations for slowing the spread—wearing masks, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds, ventilating indoor spaces, and washing hands often—will also prevent the spread of this variant.”
Both strains of the virus found in the U.K. and South Africa share similar mutations, but experts say they developed separately. Although it’s no surprise the virus is mutating, researchers are quickly trying to determine what the changes might mean for recently developed lifesaving vaccines and treatments against the disease.
The B.1.351 strain appears to be more problematic than the emerging variant found in the U.K., White House health advisor Dr. Anthony F