First Verified Case of Unique South African COVID Variant Discovered in North Carolina


The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has just announced the detection of the first verified case of COVID-19 variant B.1.351 in North Carolina.

The new variant was found in an adult in the central part of North Carolina who reports not having traveled recently. North Carolina is now the 4th state in America to detect the new B.1.351 variant (South Carolina was the first).

The new B.1.351 variant differs from the UK variant B.1.1.7 (which was detected in Charlotte last month) 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.

Novavax recently 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 emergence of variants that are more infectious means it’s more important than ever to do what we know works to slow the spread — wear a mask, wash your hands, wait 6 feet apart, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” remarked NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, MD.

NCDHHS has recently updated their suggestions for improved mask-wearing based on new CDC guidelines. The NCDHHS now recommends that you:

  • Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face and covers your nose and mouth. To help with a snug fit, you can use a mask with a metal strip along the top of the mask.
  • Use two or more layers for your face covering. You can do this by wearing a cloth face covering with two or more layers or by wearing one disposable mask (sometimes referred to as a surgical mask or a medical procedure mask) underneath a cloth mask.
  • Do not wear two disposable masks.
  • Make sure you can see and breathe easily.

For additional information on how to improve mask-wearing, please see updated guidelines from the CDC.