Brazilian variant of COVID-19 virus detected in Johnson County

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Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

On Wednesday, interim director of the Iowa Department of Public Health Kelly Garcia confirmed the B.117 variant, the so-called U.K. variant, has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Iowa. On Thursday, IDPH announced the first case of the P.1 variant, known as the Brazilian variant, in Iowa.

The Brazilian variant was detected by the State Hygienic Laboratory in a sample from Johnson County resident. IDPH said in a statement that it “and local public health have already initiated contact with the individual to understand exposures and initiate the health monitoring process.”

“We are still learning about the characteristics of this strain including any potential impact on vaccine effectiveness,” IDPH said.

Last week, the CDC published data showing the B.117 variant had become the widespread strain of COVID-19 in the United States, and the P.1 variant the second-most widespread. Both variants spread more easily than the previous dominant strain of the virus that was first detected in Iowa in March 2020.

The P.1 variant was first identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus in December. The first case in the United States was detected in Minnesota a month later. In its report last week, the CDC identified Massachusetts, Illinois and Florida as states with large numbers of P.1 infections.

The State Hygienic Laboratory routinely conducts genetic sequencing of a limited number of selected COVID-19 test samples to monitor for virus variants. IDPH announced the lab had found the B.117 variant in two samples from Johnson County and one from Bremer County on Feb. 1. Those were the first cases of the variant documented in Iowa.

In its statement on Thursday, IDPH emphasized that people should practice standard pandemic precautions, including wearing face masks and social distancing. “Get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is offered to you,” the department said.

Hy-Vee is hosting a vaccination clinic in Iowa City on Saturday, with 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine available to anyone 16 or older. Online registration is required for the clinic, which will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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