DENVER (CBS4)– Further cases of the P.1 or Brazilian variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are occurring in Colorado. It’s a disturbing discovery as the variant may be more likely to re-infect people who have already had COVID-19.
“It’s actually one of those varieties that we don’t know that much about,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.
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More is known about variants that are currently more common in Colorado, the UK variant, and the California variant. But the P.1 variant has gained a foothold. Two cases in Boulder County were known on Wednesday. By Friday, 12 were known to the state. They have also been found in Denver, Broomfield, and Arapahoe Counties.
“We are seeing two household clusters appear, but there are additional cases outside of those household clusters,” said Dr. Herlihy at a Friday afternoon press conference with Governor Jared Polis.
The Brazilian variant shares some mutations with the British and South African variants.
“We now have fairly accurate estimates from CDC of the increased transfer rates associated with most of the other variants,” noted Herlihy.
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In addition to its increased transmissibility, there may be increased severity and decreased ability of some antibody treatments. Dr. Herlihy says there is some limited data to show the vaccine is less effective, but vaccination remains the best protection.
There may be other cases. Colorado doesn’t sequence all COVID cases to determine genomic data that would indicate variant types. But health professionals are working to curb the spread of the P.1.
“We do the typical contact tracing that we do, examining both upstream sources of infection for these P.1 cases we have identified and downstream to see who these cases may have been in contact with. ”
Brazil has been hard hit by the variant, which has increased in a country with low vaccination rates and low participation in COVID prevention efforts. The country hit a dismal mark of 4,000 deaths per day this week.
Colorado is more vigorous in both prevention efforts. Dr. Herlihy pointed out that the state had succeeded in limiting the spread of another worrying variant, the South African variant.
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“We know our case investigation and contact tracing work can limit the transmission of these variants, and that is exactly what we will certainly do.”