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Brazilian COVID-19 Variant: Illinois’ First Case Reported in Chicago
COVID-19 variants are surging in America, one of which is the coronavirus variant P.1. In the United States, the first case of this variant was announced in late January in Minnesota. Recently, Illinois’ first case of the more contagious Brazilian COVID-19 variant has been detected in Chicago.
First Case of More Contagious Brazilian COVID-19 Variant Reported in Chicago
The Chicago Department of Public Health reported the city’s first case of the more contagious Brazilian COVID-19 variant last Friday. This also marked the first such case in Illinois, according to health officials. It was first identified by a research team at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and was detected in a person who hasn’t recently traveled outside Illinois.
According to Dr. Egon Ozer, assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases at Northwestern and a Northwestern Medicine physician, “We identified it through our research program following mutations in the virus over time in the Chicago area.”
Northwestern said that when the Chicago Department of Public Health followed up with the individual, one other person in the household had also been diagnosed with COVID-19. However, no one in the household reported traveling outside of Illinois.
Northwestern researchers said there is evidence to suggest that the Brazilian COVID-19 variant can spread more easily than other currently circulating COVID-19 strains. There are also concerns that the mutated form of the virus will decrease the susceptibility of the virus to immunization through vaccination or prior infection.
“This means that if someone was previously infected with COVID-19, the immune system may not as effectively fight off a second infection with this variant,” Ozer said. He adds, “There is also some concern that the current vaccines might not be as effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 with this variant, though the degree to which they differ is unclear.”
A case of P.1. was first identified in the United States at the end of January in Minnesota and has since been identified in several other states. The P.1. strain was first detected in Brazilian travelers who arrived in Tokyo in early January. Later that month, it appeared in Minnesota and has since been identified in eight other states, including Illinois. The CDC has designated the P.1. as a “variant of concern.”
Brazilian COVID-19 Variant Can Re-Infect Virus Survivors
New data suggests that the Brazilian COVID-19 variant is likely able to re-infect people who have survived infections with earlier versions of the coronavirus. The variant that emerged in Brazil, known as P.1., carries a mutation that is already known to make a variant prevalent in South Africa more difficult to treat with antibodies and harder to prevent with available vaccines. New data suggests that in numerous recovered patients, immunity to earlier versions of the virus won’t provide immunity to the P.1. strain.
Researchers tested the neutralizing ability of antibodies in plasma samples taken from COVID-19 survivors who tested positive for earlier versions of the virus. Researchers reported on Monday ahead of their peer-review on a preprint server belonging to The Lancet journal that the plasma “had a 6-fold less neutralizing capacity” against the P.1. variant than against earlier versions of the virus. According to the authors, “Lower neutralization capacity of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and partial immunity against new variants suggests that reinfection could occur in convalescent or even vaccinated individuals.”
In a separate paper posted on Wednesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review, some of the same researchers estimated that among every 100 survivors of COVID-19 due to earlier virus versions, 25-to-60 could become re-infected if exposed to the P.1 variant. Why? Because their antibodies could not protect them. As of Thursday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control of Prevention, there have been 13 cases of COVID-19 due to P.1 in the United States.
What You Need to Know About the Brazilian COVID-19 Variant
A variant that originated in Brazil – known as P.1. – was first detected in late January by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan after 4 travelers from Brazil were screened at an airport outside of Tokyo.
According to the CDC, the P.1. variant has 17 unique mutations, including 3 in the virus’ spiked protein. As of Sunday, the CDC reported 10 cases of the P.1. variant in 5 U.S. states, including Alaska, Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Maryland. Most recently, the Brazilian COVID-19 variant has also been detected in Illinois.
A study published in January reported on a cluster of cases in Manaus, Brazil, the largest city in the Amazon region. It discovered that the P.1 variant was identified in 42% of COVID-19 cases sequenced from late December.
Many of the cases were detected in people who already had recovered from the virus, increasing concerns about reinfection. According to Dr. Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida, “They had a high level of herd immunity there and what they found now is that they’re seeing new cases of COVID-19 and reinfections.” Researchers discovered reinfection was caused primarily by the P.1. variant.
Last week was Brazil’s deadliest of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 8,244 deaths from the virus. Less than 4% of Brazil’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19. Almost 260,000 people have died from the disease. “The return of the pandemic in several states is making their private and public assistance networks collapse and has brought imminent risk of spreading it to all regions of Brazil,” Brazil’s National Council of Health Secretaries said Monday, adding that the nation is experiencing its worst moment since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Illinois COVID-19 Update (as of March 8)
On Sunday, the Illinois Department of Public Health officials reported 1,068 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 14 deaths. The IDPH reported a total of 1,198,335 COVID-19 cases, including 20,763 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
As of Saturday evening, 1,141 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those patients, 255 were reported to be in the ICU and 112 were on ventilators. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 68,094 specimens for a total of 18,640,190 since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from February 28 to March 6 is 2.3%.
A total of 3,824,675 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago, with an additional 443,700 doses allocated to federal government partners for long-term care facilities, bringing the total number delivered in Illinois to 4,268,375.
The deaths reported Saturday include:
- Cook County: 2 males 40s, 1 female 60s, 1 male 60s, 1 male 80s
- Kankakee County: 1 male 60s
- Kendall County: 1 female 70s
- Lake County: 1 male 70s
- Livingston County: 1 female 60s
- Madison County: 1 female 40s, 1 female 60s
- Massac County: 1 male 70s
- Peoria County: 1 female 80s
- Will County: 1 male 80s