The first known case of the P.1 coronavirus variant, also known as the Brazillian variant, has been discovered in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services updated their COVID-19 dashboard Friday to show one case of the P.1 variant detected in the state. The DHS reiterated the discovery in an email, but did not release any details of the finding.
That means Wisconsin has instances of all three variants of the coronavirus, known to spread more quickly and lead to more severe symptoms compared to the initial virus.
As of Friday, Wisconsin has detected 78 cases of the B.1.1.7 or UK variant, and two cases of the B.1.351 or South Africa variant.
The Brazilian variant was first discovered in four travelers from Brazil in January, who were tested at an airport near Tokyo. Scientists discovered they carried the new variant, and it has since been nicknamed after their nationality.
The Wisconsin DHS characterizes the Brazilian variant as having unique genetic mutations that may affect the body's ability to recognize and successfully "fight off" the virus.
Usually, antibodies developed through previous COVID-19 infection or through vaccination can fight off the COVID-19 virus. But if the virus has mutated into the Brazilian variant, the antibodies may not recognize it - leaving people exposed to infection.
Scientists' understanding of the COVID-19 variants is still a work in progress. The DHS outlined the major points of how they are learning about the variants and how they affect the following:
- Transmissibility: How easily the virus spreads from one person to another.
- Gene mutation D614G was found in all three notable variants. This mutation allows these variants to spread more quickly than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.
- Disease outcome: How ill people get with COVID-19.
- Emerging evidence suggests that B.1.1.7 may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to the other variants. More studies are needed to confirm this.
- More studies are needed to determine if P.1 and B.1.351 are associated with more severe illness.
- Response to COVID-19 treatments: How well therapies and medicines work.
- Therapies and medicines for people with COVID-19 use specific antibodies to target regions of the virus and block infection. These treatments may become less effective at helping people recover as new variants emerge.
- Change in effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines: How well vaccines work.
- The SARS-CoV-2 virus would likely need to have multiple, significant mutations to affect the level of immunity provided by vaccination.
- Based on initial evidence, all three authorized vaccines effectively reduce the risk of COVID-19 for all of the circulating variants.