State and city health officials today announced Friday, Feb. 5, the first case in Illinois of the COVID-19 variant called P.1, which was first identified in travelers from Brazil during routine airport screening in Tokyo, Japan, in early January.
The case in Chicago was identified by the Pathogen Genomics research team at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine through sequencing analysis of a COVID-19 specimen. A follow-up investigation by CDPH found that a household contact of this individual had also recently been unwell with COVID-19, but neither this individual nor their household contacts reported travel outside Illinois.
A case of P.1 was first identified in the United States at the end of January in Minnesota and has since been identified in several other states.
Evidence suggests that this variant can spread more easily than most currently circulating strains of COVID-19, and there is some evidence that some mutations in the P.1 variant may affect the ability of antibodies (from natural infection or vaccination) to recognize and neutralize the virus, but additional studies are needed.
The news doesn’t change public health guidance around COVID-19. The same strategies used to contain the spread of COVID-19 will work against the new variants: wear a well-fitting mask, practice social distancing, avoid gatherings, don’t travel unnecessarily and wash your hands often.
And get vaccinated when it’s your turn.
The Chicago Department of Public Health is working to identify close contacts of the individual to reinforce the importance of adherence with quarantine and isolation measures.