Researchers at Northwestern Medicine said they first identified P.1. variant, which was first found earlier this year in travelers from Brazil during a screening at Tokyo airport. The Brazilian variant has since been found in several other countries.
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“We identified it through our research program after mutations in the virus over time in the Chicago area,” said Dr. Egon Ozer, assistant professor of infectious disease medicine in Northwestern and a Northwestern Medicine physician.
Northwestern said that when the Chicago Department of Public Health followed up with the individual, another person in the household had also been unwell with COVID-1
Northwestern researchers said there is evidence that this variant can spread more easily than other currently circulating strains of COVID-19. There is also concern that the mutated form of the virus will decrease the susceptibility of the virus to immunization through vaccination or prior infection.
“This means that if someone was previously infected with COVID-19, the immune system may not be as effective at fighting another infection with this variant,” Ozer said. “There is also some concern that current vaccines may not be as effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 with this variant, although the extent to which they differ is unclear.”
A case of P.1. was first identified in the United States in late January in Minnesota and has since been identified in several other states.
The British and South African varieties have already arrived here. In total, Illinois has reported 88 known variant cases.