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Maryland’s first case of Brazil variant of the coronavirus is detected in deceased older adult

Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday night that Maryland health officials have detected a new variant of the coronavirus in the state.

The variant, P.1, is more commonly known as the Brazil variant, and first appeared in the United States at the end of January.

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The Maryland Department of Health confirmed the new variant with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an adult older than 65 from the National Capital Region. The individual recently died after international travel. Officials did not disclose the age or gender or specify where the individual lived but said comprehensive contact tracing efforts are underway.

“State public health officials are closely monitoring the P.1 variant, and we mourn the loss of this Marylander to COVID-19” Hogan said in a news release. “As we continue to test for these variants, we strongly encourage Marylanders to continue taking precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and physical distancing.”

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The Brazil variant is believed to more transmittable than the original strain of COVID-19, but it is not yet clear if it causes the disease to be more severe.

Doctors, public health officials and state and local officials anticipated that new variants would crop up because viruses naturally mutate. This is the third new variant to appear in Maryland; the others are the UK variant, B.1.1.7, and the South Africa variant, B.1.351, which also appeared in January.

Though the individual with the Brazil variant had a history of travel, officials cautioned that other variants have spread without travel, which indicates community transmission, reinforcing the importance for public health precautions such as social distancing and vigilant mask-wearing.

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