State finds more contagious South African COVID strain in resident with no history of travel

(File)(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Mar. 8, 2021 at 1:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Health Department says a case of COVID with the so-called South African mutation has been detected in an Oahu adult with no history of travel.

It’s the first such infection in Hawaii. Nationally, at least 80 cases have been confirmed, the CDC said.

The discovery is concerning because the B.1.351 variant is known to be more transmissible.

It also contains a mutation that could make it less responsive to antibodies formed naturally by someone who has had COVID or by a vaccine.

Acting state Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said while the discovery underscores the need for vigilance, vaccines still appear to offer good protection against the mutation.

“It’s concerning to see the South African variant and in a non-traveler because that means there has been some community circulation,” she said, at a news conference Monday.

Kemble added that masks, social distancing and not gathering in large groups continue to be among the top things people can do to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

She said close contacts of the person who had the variant have tested positive.

Those cases have not yet been confirmed to be the South African variant, but the Health Department said they are assumed to be.

The state has previously detected other COVID mutations in Hawaii, including those from the UK and Brazil. A mutation from California has also been said to be contributing to community spread on Maui.

Officials said Monday they have also recently found two new cases of UK variant for a total of eight so far. The two most recent cases were detected in Oahu residents who had traveled to the mainland.

This story will be updated.

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