COVID-19 Variant P.1 (Brazil) Identified in Bay County

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has notified the Bay County Health Department (BCHD) that the MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories identified the P.1 variant (Brazil) in a Bay County resident.  It’s the first known case of this variant in the State of Michigan.

The confirmed case is female and the person’s travel history is not known. The woman was originally diagnosed in early March and has since recovered. Samples from the original diagnosis were sent to the Bureau of Laboratories in Lansing for genotyping and the results identifying the variant were reported on Wednesday.

“This is the second new variant of COVID-19 to be identified in Bay County since last week, and the rise of these new variants definitely impact the progress we have made this year with vaccinations,” said Joel Strasz, Public Health Officer of the Bay County Health Department.

The Bay County Health Department said it has investigated three cases of the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant identified since the first case was identified in the county on March 26, 2021. No cases of the 1.351 (South African) variant have been identified in Bay County to date.

The P.1 and the B.1.1.7 variants have been detected in many countries and states. The Bay County Health Department said both variants are concerning because they are associated with increased transmissibility. Compared to the wild-type virus, the P.1 variant has been estimated to be approximately 2.5 times more transmissible, leading to faster spread of the virus and potentially increasing numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and potentially deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention variant data, 172 P.1 cases are reported nationwide as of March 31, 2021.

“We are concerned about the discovery of another variant in Michigan,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS Director. “It is now even more important that Michiganders continue to do what works to slow the spread of the virus by wearing their masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it is their turn. We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic as quickly as possible.”

The P.1 variant was first identified in travelers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January. It was first detected in the US at the end of January 2021. This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies from previous infections and may increase the chance of reinfection. So far, studies suggest that currently authorized vaccines in the United States recognize and are effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and deaths related to these known variants.

With the high transmission rate of the variants and with Spring Break and the Easter holiday upon us, the Bay County Health Department said vaccination is more important than ever. They recommend Bay County residents get vaccinated as soon as it is offered to them.

Other actions to protect yourself and others from the variants include:
 Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as it is available to you.
 Wearing a mask around others.
 Staying six feet apart from others.
 Washing hands often.
 Ventilating indoor spaces.