By Jose Zepeda
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The first case of the P.1 COVID-19 variant has been identified in a Chicago resident, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The case was identified by the Pathogen Genomics research team at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
CDPH also found that the person who contacted the P.1 variant lived in a household with someone else who had also been sick with COVID-19. Neither individuals reported travel outside of Illinois.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the P.1 strain of COVID-19 can spread more easily compared to other strains of COVID-19. Evidence also suggests that the P.1 strain can affect the ability of antibodies in the body to recognize and neutralize the virus. Additional evidence has to confirm this, however.
The P.1 variant was first identified in Tokyo during an airport screening of Brazilian travelers in January. The first case of the P.1 variant in the United States was first identified at the end of January in Minnesota.
Besides the P.1 variant, the B.1.351 and B.1.1.7 have also been identified in Illinois. As of Saturday, only the B.1.1.7 variant is in Champaign County. Both the B.1.351 and B.1.1.7 variants are also known to spread more easily compared to other COVID-19 variants.
Health officials say the same strategies that have been in place to prevent other variants of COVID-19 from spreading apply for the P.1 variant as well. This includes wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, unnecessary travel and constantly washing your hands.
Officials also say it is becoming much more important to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as it is your turn. In Champaign County, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District is managing COVID-19 vaccine distribution. More information on vaccine eligibility can be found here.