The first cases of the Brazilian variant of the COVID-19 virus have been identified in Virginia residents, the state Department of Health announced Friday afternoon.
The variant, known as P.1, was first identified in travelers from Brazil in late 2020 and is associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that infections with this variant cause more severe disease, the health department said. The P.1 variant has now been identified in at least 22 other states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One of the Virginia cases was identified in an adult resident of the Northwest Region, which includes the Winchester area, who had a history of domestic travel during the exposure period.
The second case was identified in an adult resident of the Eastern Region with no history of travel. Neither case had a record of a COVID-19 vaccination prior to illness onset.
The P.1 variant was initially identified by laboratories using next-generation sequencing.
Of the 674 variants of concern reported to the health department to date, the majority have been identified as B.1.1.7 (78.5%), followed by B.1.351 (9.5%), B.1.427 (8.0%) and B.1.429 (3.7%).
The health department said it likely that the variants are more common in the state than the number of reported cases suggest because only a small number of COVID-19 positive samples are tested to see what variant type they are.