America’s First Case of Unique South African Covid Strain Detected in South Carolina

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South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has just confirmed that the highly contagious B.1.351 Covid-19 variant was found in South Carolina.

According to a press release from DHEC, “South Carolina public health officials were notified late yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a South Carolina sample that was tested at LabCorp and determined to be the B.1.351 variant originally identified in South Africa. Also, DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory tested samples on Jan. 25 and yesterday identified a separate case of the same variant.”

The new B.1.351 variant differs from the UK variant B.1.1.7 (which was detected in Charlotte last week) in that it seems to be both more contagious and more resistant to the Covid-19 vaccine.

Recent studies have shown that mutations in the variant can help the virus partially evade the human immune response and are potentially more likely to reinfect those who have already had Covid-19.

Yesterday, Novavax released a new report saying that its experimental Covid-19 vaccine was 90% effective in the U.K., and 49% effective in South Africa. Health experts hope that other vaccines made in different ways could see less of a drop in efficacy.

Moderna and Novavax have said they are currently studying booster shots designed specifically to combat the new B.1.351 strain.

“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,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Interim Public Health Director. “While more COVID-19 vaccines are on the way, supplies are still limited. Every one of us must recommit to the fight by recognizing that we are all on the front lines now. We are all in this together.”

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