US confirms third case of COVID variant originally found in South Africa

A medical worker wearing protective equipment takes a swab sample from a student for a COVID-19 test in Rabat, Morocco, Jan. 12, 2021. Morocco on Tuesday reported 801 new COVID-19 cases, taking the tally of infections in the country since March 2 to 453,789. A campaign to detect the new variants of COVID-19 has been organized in middle and high schools across six regions in the country. (Photo by Chadi/Xinhua)

The United States has identified its third case of the more contagious coronavirus new strain discovered in South Africa – this time in a man from Maryland.

The man, from the Baltimore region, had not travelled outside the country, Governor Larry Hogan said in a statement, which means it’s “likely” he caught it in the community.

This is the third case of the variant found in the US after two other people were found in South Carolina on Thursday this week. Neither person had travelled outside the US, and the two cases were not connected, state health officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the variant, named B.1.351, can “spread more easily and quickly,” but there is no evidence it is more deadly. The variant has a mutation on its spike protein, which is what the coronavirus uses to invade human cells.

Hogan said Maryland health officials were trying to identify and test the man’s contacts, as well as “closely monitoring the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the state.”

“We strongly encourage Marylanders to practice extra caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this variant. Please continue to practice standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and physical distancing.”

The man did not need to go to hospital and is recovering at home, Maryland health department spokesman Charles Gischlar told The Washington Post.

(With input from agencies)