Health officials in South Carolina announced Thursday that they have identified two cases of a COVID-19 variant that emerged recently in South Africa. The two cases are the first found of the mutated virus in the United States. According to South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, federal officials identified the B.1.351 variant in adults from the state’s Lowcountry and Pee Dee regions. The patients have not traveled internationally and did not know each other.
Interim DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said in a statement, “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. 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.”
New variants first reported in Britain and South Africa are said to be more transmissible, but most experts have said the available vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna should also be effective against the mutated strains.