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A New Coronavirus Variant From Brazil Is Found In Minnesota

A new variant of coronavirus first detected in Brazil has been confirmed in Minnesota. The variant was detected by the Minnesota Department of Health, which announced Monday that the new strain is thought to be more transmissible. This is the first documented case of the variant in the United States.

The variant, called P.1, has been circulating in Manaus, Brazil, since at least December, Michaeleen Doucleff previously reported. Scientists have been concerned about this variant because it contains a cluster of worrying mutations. Some of the mutations make the virus spread more quickly. Others help the virus evade the body's immune system, which could make it easier for individuals to contract COVID-19 a second time and could hinder the efficacy of vaccines.

A resident of the Minneapolis metro area became ill at the beginning of January, and a specimen was collected Jan. 9, an MDH news release said. After testing positive for COVID-19, the patient then reported traveling to Brazil before the onset of symptoms.

"These cases illustrate why it is so important to limit travel during a pandemic as much as possible," said state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield. "If you must travel, it is important to watch for symptoms of COVID-19, follow public health guidance on getting tested prior to travel, use careful protective measures during travel, and quarantine and get tested after travel."

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Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.