Colorado health officials this week announced the state has identified its first cases of a worrisome coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil late last year.
The variant, which is scientifically referred to as P.1., was identified in two Boulder Counter residents, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), which noted that the Centers for Diease Control and Prevention (CDC) first notified state health officials of the P.1. cases.
“Prior travel history for both individuals is unknown at this time,” officials said, adding they now “investigating possible exposures and performing contact tracing to determine if the variant virus has spread to others.”
“Boulder County Public Health is working closely with CDPHE to provide local support if needed or requested,” they added.
The Brazilian variant was first identified in the US in late January. It is thought to have originated in Manaus, a northwestern city in the Amazon, where researchers say it was likely circulating in December. The strain includes three mutations, E484K, K417T and N501Y, similar to a separate variant initially detected in South Africa.
While the P.1 variant has been determined to be more transmissible than the wild type of coronavirus, Oxford University recently said new findings showed it poses less of a threat than previously thought to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
Overall, some 289 cases of the P.1. variant have been identified across 25 jurisdictions in the US, per the CDC, with Massachusetts and Florida accounting for the most case of the variant, at 82 and 84, respectively.
“Coloradans should continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing, wash their hands frequently and get vaccinated when it is their turn. These are our best tools for preventing the spread of this virus, no matter the strain. Early research suggests that the currently authorized vaccines are effective against known variants, though perhaps to varying degrees depending on the strain,” Colorado health officials said in the news release. “Experts stress that getting vaccinated can provide significant protection against transmission and severe illness from COVID-19.”