The South African COVID-19 variant has now been found in Maryland — causing the third confirmed case in the U.S.
An adult living in Baltimore who has not recently traveled internationally has contracted the new variant, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Saturday.
Hogan says the strain is not known to cause “more severe illness” or increased risk of death, but it is highly contagious compared to other strains.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases doctor, warned the COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against the South African strain.
“Clearly, the mutants have a diminishing effect on the efficacy of the vaccines,” Fauci said in a briefing, according to Reuters. “We can see that we are going to be challenged.”
The news comes after two residents in South Carolina became the first in the U.S. known to be infected with the contagious strain.
Those individuals also had no prior travel history, officials said.
The U.S. has seen more than 26 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and reported over 439,000 deaths as of early Sunday, according to John Hopkins University.