California's 1st case of Brazilian COVID-19 variant found in San Bernardino County

California's first case of a COVID-19 variant first discovered in Brazil earlier this year was detected in San Bernardino over the weekend, county officials said.

The California Department of Public Health alerted the county to the case Saturday after it was detected in a positive test sample collected on March 2, San Bernardino County public information officer David Wert said in a statement.

"It's a real thing, it's something of concern," said UCSF's Dr. George Rutherford. "It has a mutation that makes it somewhat more transmissible and a mutation that makes it somewhat less susceptible to naturally acquired immunity and vaccine acquired immunity."

Health officials are now investigating how the resident, a man in his 40s, might have been exposed to the variant. The man -- who has not been vaccinated -- is self-isolating at home, according to officials.

"A lot of the earlier reports out of Brazil indicate that this variant does transmit more easily somewhat similar to the UK variant," said Stanford's Dr. Catherine Blish. Blish says while early reports are concerning and there is a lot of unknowns about this variant, what is known is that masking and distancing will continue to be effective.

"When we mix too much in close settings, share air with other people than a variant like this or the UK variant frankly pose similar dangers in that their more transmissible and you're more likely to spread it in group settings," says Dr. Blish.

"We are taking immediate and aggressive action to contact trace and contain the virus and working with the CDPH in expanding whole genomic sequencing to identify more cases," said County Health Officer Dr. Michael S. Sequeira. "Slowing the spread of the disease and minimizing the spread of all variants is doable with contact tracing, strategic quarantine with masking and social distancing, and most importantly vaccination."

The P.1 "Brazilian'' variant is believed to be more contagious than the most-common strain of the virus.

In Brazil, COVID-19 cases are currently surging and vaccination rates are extremely low. Both Dr. Blish and Rutherford echoed the importance of COVID-19 vaccines for variants like this one and others from the UK and South Africa.

"The vaccine is not ineffective against it, it's just not as effective against it," says Dr. Rutherford.

This Brazilian variant has also been confirmed in a number of other states across the country including Washington, Oregon, and Arizona.

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