Health officials in Washington state have confirmed the state’s first case of a worrisome coronavirus variant that was first identified in Brazil late last year.
The variant, scientifically known as P.1., was confirmed by the UW Medicine Virology Lab, which identified the mutation in a COVID-19 test sample from King County, according to a news release from Public Health – Seattle & King County.
The P.1 variant is concerning as it contains a number of mutations, “including ones that seem to make it less vulnerable to our bodies’ immune response,” officials said. COVID-19 vaccines are also thought to be less effective against some variants, including the Brazilian one.
“If we let down our guard, these variant strains will make us pay,” said Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County, in a statement. “The upside is that we can take steps to limit the damage. The same precautions that have helped us drive down case counts in the past can also protect us from the variants, as long as we are diligent.”
The Brazilian variant was first identified in the U.S. 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.
Three COVID-19 variants, including the variant first identified in the U.K. and the variant first identified in South Africa, have now been detected in Washington state.
“The appearance of these variants should not discourage us — they should invigorate and motivate us to turn the tide on the pandemic. The next month or two will be especially important in determining the course of our outbreak, with the threat from new VOCs increasing as we work to get more people protected through vaccination,” Washington state health officials said in the news release. “If we continue strong efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 for a few more months, we will reduce the risk for another serious wave of infections and speed our return to a more normal life.”
Fox News’ Kayla Rivas and the Associated Press contributed to this report.