Child infected with Michigan’s first known case of COVID-19 variant that may resist vaccines 

click to enlarge This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. - NIAID
  • This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S.

A more-contagious coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa has been confirmed in Michigan for the first time, infecting a child in Jackson County.

The state’s first case of the B.1.351 variant was detected Monday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Bureau of Laboratories.

The new variant is worrisome because new studies have found it is more resistant to existing vaccines because of a mutation to its spike proteins. It also spreads more quickly than other variants and is believed to be more deadly, according to British health officials.

“We are concerned about the discovery of another variant in Michigan, although it was not unexpected,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS, said in a statement. “We continue to urge Michiganders to follow a research-based approach 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.”

State health officials warned that variant may be spreading undetected, raising the prospect of more COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

The new variant was first identified in early October in South Africa and has since been discovered in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New York, Maine, Maryland, South Carolina, and Virginia. As of March 7, there were 81 reported cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In January, another highly contagious mutation – B.1.1.7 – was discovered in Michigan after it was first detected in the United Kingdom. A month later, the variant infected 88 inmates and two employees at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, underscoring how quickly new mutations can spread.

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