One of the world's fast-spreading strains of COVID has been detected in the US for the first time, reports the AP. The variant first detected in South Africa, known as B. 1.351, turned up in two cases in South Carolina. Worse, neither of the people has traveled recently, suggesting the variant has been spreading in the state undetected, reports the Washington Post. Variants from Brazil and the UK, also more contagious than the original strain, previously reached the US. Researchers are racing to learn more about the variants, including whether they're more resistant to the current vaccines now being administered. Preliminary studies by drug-maker Moderna suggest the South African variant is indeed more resistant, though the company is developing a new version of its vaccine that it says should control it.
"At this time, we have no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease," the CDC said Thursday in response to the news out of South Carolina. "Like the UK and Brazilian variants, preliminary data suggests this variant may spread more easily and quickly than other variants." The two new cases, both involving adults, showed up in different parts of the state and appear to be unrelated to one another, reports the State. "This is important information for South Carolinians to have, but it isn't a reason for panic," Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted. The variant has been detected in more than 30 countries. (Snowbound drivers got surprise vaccinations.)