Mass. announces first case of South African variant of COVID-19 in the state

Mass. announces first case of South African variant of COVID-19 in the state

BOSTON — State public health officials Tuesday announced the first case of the South African variant of COVID-19 in Massachusetts.

The first known case of the B.1.351 variant is a woman in her 20s, who lives in Middlesex County. She has not reported any recent travel, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said in a news release. On Thursday, the Cambridge Public Health Dept. announced the woman lives in the city.

“The B.1.351 variant is known to spread easily,” the release said. “The Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory is working in collaboration with many healthcare and academic partners to quickly identify variants of concern by sequencing a subset of positive samples.”

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Other concerning variants include the B.1.1.7, first detected in the United Kingdom. Thirty-four cases have been diagnosed in Massachusetts. The P.1 variant, first found in Brazil, has not been discovered in Massachusetts.

The best way to prevent contracting the variants is to maintain the same social distancing and good hygiene practices that have been encouraged throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts also urge people to wear tight-fitting masks and to get vaccinated as soon as eligible.

While experts believe the vaccines available now protect against the newly discovered variants, exactly what their efficacy is against each is still being researched.

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