ROSEBURG, Ore. – The Brazilian variant of COVID-19 is officially in Douglas County. It's also known as the P-1 variant.
Public health officials said they started an investigation in January after a person tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling. They learned that the person traveled to South America for business and brought the variant back with them. They sent a test swab to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and received confirmation on Monday.
Bob Dannenhoffer, the county's public health officer, said this is one of the most contagious variants of COVID-19 in the world. Right now, there are about 11 cases in the U.S. People who are immune to COVID-19 because they already had it could be reinfected by this new variant, Dannenhoffer said.
“Most of the variants that we worry about, we worry about them because they are more contagious,” he said. “Variants that are less contagious tend to go away. Variants that are more contagious tend to spread among the population.”
Oregon Health Authority senior health expert Dr. Bukhosi Dube told KEZI 9 News that the fact that people could be reinfected is concerning because it could lead to another spike in cases and overwhelm hospitals, like what happened at the beginning of the pandemic.
Although there is not enough data to prove this, he also said there is a chance this variant could be resistant to the current vaccines available. However, he said that shouldn’t discourage people from getting their vaccine.
“When it’s time to get your vaccine, please go out there and get your vaccine,” said Dube. “This is a message to everybody that we need to get as many people as quickly as possible to ensure that we don’t see any more variants.”
Dannenhoffer said the person who tested positive for the Brazilian variant has made a full recovery since the investigation started in January. He said that person did spread the virus to one person in their household, but they have made a full recovery as well. There is no risk of community spread right now, he said. However, he’s encouraging people to be extra careful moving forward, in case the variant is spreading.
“This is a tricky virus,” he said. "There were asymptomatic cases that were really hard to follow and we worry about the possibility that there could be community spread. So, people still need to do that same public health things – wear a mask, socially distance and avoid gatherings.”
For more information about emerging COVID-19 variations, CLICK HERE.