Governor Larry Hogan today announced that state health officials have confirmed a case of COVID-19 caused by the new B.1.351 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a Maryland resident. The new variant’s presence in Maryland was confirmed by the Maryland Department of Health in consultation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The B.1.351 variant has not been shown to cause more severe illness or increased risk of death when compared to other variants. The variant is believed to be more transmissible than other strains. There are now three known cases of the B.1.351 variant in the US. The other two cases are in South Carolina.
Additional research is still required to determine the effectiveness of available vaccines against the B.1.351 variant. However, initial evidence suggests that vaccines are still likely to be protective against the variant. It is also expected that currently available diagnostic tests will detect the B.1.351 variant.
“State health officials are closely monitoring the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the state,” said Governor Hogan. “We strongly encourage Marylanders to practice extra caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this variant. Please continue to practice standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and physical distancing.”
The case announced today involves an adult living in the Baltimore metro region. The individual has not traveled internationally, making community transmission likely. Comprehensive contact tracing efforts are underway to ensure that potential contacts are quickly identified, quarantined, and tested.
The B.1.351 variant was initially detected in South Africa. It was first identified in the United States on January 28 through two cases in South Carolina.
Viruses constantly change, or mutate, and new variants of viruses are expected to occur over time. The B.1.351 variant is the second variant of SARS-CoV-2 identified in Maryland. The first variant identified in Maryland was B.1.1.7—commonly known as “the UK variant”—which MDH announced that it identified on January 12. Seven total cases of B.1.1.7 have been identified in Maryland since that time. The CDC tracks case counts of different virus strains identified in the United States on its website.