The South African variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, is known as B.1.351.
Health experts in various countries said the South African strain is concerning because it has been shown to be more contagious, and some studies have shown that it may be vaccine-resistant.
South Carolina public health officials said they were notified late Jan. 27 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about a sample that was tested and later determined to be the B.1.351 variant. On Jan. 25, a separate case of the same variant was discovered by health officials.
These are the first two known cases of this South African variant in the United States, officials said.
“The arrival of the SARS-CoV-2 variant in our state is an important reminder to all South Carolinians that the fight against this deadly virus is far from over,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, public health director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, in a statement.
“While more COVID-19 vaccines are on the way, supplies are still limited. Every one of us must recommit to the fight by recognizing that we are all on the front lines now. We are all in this together.”
Health officials said that both cases are adults, including one person in the Lowcountry region and another near the Pee Dee area.
“We know that viruses mutate to live and live to mutate,” Traxler said. “That’s why it’s critical that we all continue to do our part by taking small actions that make a big difference. These include wearing our masks, staying at least six feet apart from others, avoiding large crowds, washing our hands, getting tested often, and when we can, getting vaccinated. These are the best tools for preventing the spread of the virus, no matter the strain.”
Late last year, officials also discovered a more contagious variant in the UK.
President Joe Biden earlier this week issued an order to reintroduce a travel ban across most of Europe and Brazil, and he added South Africa to the list due to the two new variants.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told news outlets earlier this week that the South African variety is a “greater concern” and “really could be problematic.”
It’s unclear, however, whether the strain is associated with a higher mortality rate.