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KDHE announces the first case of Brazil COVID-19 variant in Sedgwick County



TOPEKA, Kan. – The first case of the P.1 strain of COVID-19, also known as the Brazil variant, has been discovered in Sedgwick County, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed Tuesday.

The news means the three most widely spread variants have now been confirmed in Kansas as health officials ramp up their response to the COVID-19 mutations.

The Sedgwick County case was discovered through whole-genome sequencing at KDHE’s Topeka lab, the agency said. Contact tracing is underway to see where the individual may have contracted the virus and if anyone else has been exposed.

At least 434 people in 31 states have been infected with the variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has become one of the more reported mutations in the United States, data shows.

There is no evidence, however, that the P.1 variant is more likely to result in serious complications than the standard COVID-19 virus. Some research has indicated that its genetic makeup means that antibodies created either from vaccines or previous infections have a harder time neutralizing the variant.

But KDHE underscored that “vaccines still provide strong protection against severe illness and death.”

Lee Norman, secretary of health and environment, said in a statement that Kansans should still undertake preventative measures. That includes “wearing a mask that fits snuggly around the nose and face and has multiple layers of fabric or layering thinner masks with an additional cloth face mask to improve the fit.”

Norman said earlier Tuesday he was confident the state was well-positioned to cope with the inevitable rise of variant cases.

“Those variants are looming over us and we are following it very closely and can respond very quickly … should there be an outbreak as a result of that,” Norman said during a media briefing hosted by the University of Kansas Health System.