South Africa coronavirus variant found in Maryland, Gov. Hogan says

A transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the United States. Note the crown-like spikes on the outer edge of the virus, hence the term "coron (NIAID-RML)

The South Africa coronavirus variant known for being more resistant to COVID-19 vaccines has been identified in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan said Saturday.

The case was reported in an adult living in the Baltimore area.

The patient was not traveling internationally, making local community transmission likely.

"State health officials are closely monitoring the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the state," Gov. Hogan said in a statement. "We strongly encourage Marylanders to practice extra caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this variant. Please continue to practice standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and physical distancing."

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The South Africa coronavirus variant was first reported in the United States on Thursday, when officials announced two cases in South Carolina.

Like other coronavirus mutations, the South Africa variant is believed to be more contagious than the first COVID-19 strain, but not necessarily more dangerous.

There are at least five coronavirus mutations emerging throughout the world. 

Studies so far have shown the South Africa variant is more resistant to existing COVID-19 vaccines. 

But health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci maintain that drugmakers can adapt vaccines to new emerging coronavirus strains.

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