BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The first case of the P.1 Brazilian COVID—19 variant has been detected in Maryland.

The infected person was older than 65 and from the DC suburbs. That person died after international travel.

In a forum with reporters Thursday, experts from Johns Hopkins warned there could be more variants circulating.

 

“In the next few weeks, we’ll have a much better idea of what variants are actually out there,” said Dr. Gigi Gronvall of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I think it’s safe to assume there are much more than what have been reported.”

Governor Hogan tweeted, “As we mourn the loss of this Marylander, we urge residents to remain vigilant.”

 

This Brazilian strain is likely more transmissible. It is unknown whether it causes more severe disease, but vaccines may be less effective against the strain.

“We think that reinfection may be more likely with these new variants that evade immune responses, but we don’t have a clear picture of exactly how frequently that’s going to be occurring,” said Dr. Andy Pekosz, a virologist from Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Gronvall noted the protection afforded by the current vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer still appears high. “If you have the capacity to get the vaccine, do it,” she urged.

 

The Brazilian strain was first confirmed in the United States last month in Minnesota. That person had also traveled.

Maryland has also confirmed at least 22 cases of the U.K. variant and 7 cases of the South African variant.

In these mutations, changes to the spike protein allow the virus to more easily latch on to human cells.

“Essentially, we’ve let this virus roll the dice 900,000 times because we haven’t been able to control the number of cases that are out there,” Dr. Pekosz told reporters.

Here is what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote about the P.1 Brazilian variant:

“In Brazil, a variant of SARS-CoV-2 known as P.1 emerged; it was first identified in January 2021 in travelers from Brazil who arrived in Japan. This variant was detected in the US at the end of January 2021. The P.1 variant has 17 unique mutations, including three in the receptor binding domain of the spike protein (K417T, E484K, and N501Y), according to non-peer-reviewed preprint articles. There is evidence to suggest that some of the mutations in the P.1 variant may affect the ability of antibodies (from natural infection or vaccination) to recognize and neutralize the virus, but additional studies are needed.”

You can read more information from the CDC about variants here.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.