State identifies 1st case of South African COVID-19 variant in Minnesota

The state of Minnesota says it has identified its first case of a COVID-19 variant that was first found in South Africa.

The variant, known formally as B.1.351, was found in a person in their 40s who lives in the Twin Cities area. The person became sick Jan. 24 and their specimen was collected Jan. 29. They did not have any recent travel history, but did have exposure to someone who traveled internationally.

The South African variant is thought to be more transmissible than the initial COVID-19 strain, but it is not known if it causes more severe illness. The Minnesota patient was not hospitalized.

In a release, the state Department of Health says it is watching the patient "closely" because their specimen had "an additional mutation to the virus that may make immunity from vaccine or prior infection less responsive."

A COVID-19 variant found in both England and South Africa has been spreading through Carver County recently, particularly in youth sports. 

Another variant was discovered in a number of Minnesotans just after the New Year, too. 

In late January, the Department of Health identified a Brazilian variant in a Minnesotan who had recently traveled to that country.