Health officials in Louisiana this week identified the state’s first cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil. 

The so-called P.1. variant, which has been dubbed as a “variant of concern” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was found in one resident from the Greater New Orleans area and another from Southwest Louisiana. Neither resident reported having a recent history of travel, indicating the variant was acquired locally, officials said in a news release.

“Although these are the first reported cases of the P.1. variant in Louisiana, it is likely that there are additional undetected cases circulating,” officials warned. 

Neither resident had received the COVID-19 vaccine at the time they were diagnosed with the P.1. variant, said health officials, who noted that the variant “is potentially associated with increased transmissibility and reduced susceptibility to certain therapeutics. Recent data suggest that the P.1. variant may also be associated with a higher risk of severe disease.”

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“Current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against this variant strain,” they added.

The condition of the two residents who contracted the variant was not made clear. 

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This is not the first variant to be identified in the Bayou State. In addition to the P.1. variant, officials have also found cases of the B.1.1.7. variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom late last year, and another from California, known as B.1.427/429. 

“The COVID-19 vaccines are the best protection against these and other strains of SARS-CoV-2, including variants that may spread more easily or cause more severe disease. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine can also help prevent new variants from emerging: every infection that is prevented means the virus has one less chance to mutate,” officials said. 

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