Two cases of the coronavirus variant that first raised alarms in South Africa have been found in South Carolina, marking the first confirmed instance of the mutation in the U.S.
The arrival of the South Africa variant, known as B.1.351, follows the appearances of separate mutations spawned in the U.K. and Brazil. The U.K. variant has been found in more than 20 American states. The Brazil variant was identified for the first time in the U.S. this week, in a Minnesota resident who recently returned from a trip to that country.
Federal and company officials have said existing vaccines work against both the U.K. and South Africa variants. Early evidence suggests the South Africa variant — like the U.K. mutation — may be more transmissible, but there’s no data yet it can cause more serious illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday in a statement.
The news “is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” said Brannon Traxler, the state’s interim health director. He noted that supplies of Covid-19 vaccines remain limited.