By NewsDesk  @bactiman63

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced the first case of the B.1.351 COVID-19 variant identified in the Commonwealth. Genetic sequencing completed at the Broad Institute on behalf of DPH has confirmed the variant, which was originally identified in South Africa.

Massachusetts/National Atlas

The case is a female in her 20s who resides in Middlesex County; she has had no reported travel.

The B.1.351 variant is known to spread easily. The Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory is working in collaboration with many healthcare and academic partners to quickly identify variants of concern by sequencing a subset of positive samples.

Two other variants of concern are the B.1.1.7 originally found in the United Kingdom, and the P.1 variant, which was originally detected in Brazil.  Currently, there are 34 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Massachusetts; there are no confirmed cases of the P.1.

The best defense against a rapid rise in cases from variants of concern is to prevent the spread of COVID.

The CDC reported yesterday that 1277 United Kingdom (UK) variant B.1.1.7 cases in 42 states, 19 of the South African strain in 10 states and 3 of the P.1 Brazil variant in 2 states.