DENVER (CBS4)– More cases of the P.1 or Brazilian Variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are showing up in Colorado. It is a troubling discovery because the variant may be more likely to re-infect people who’ve already had COVID-19.
“It’s actually one of the variants that we don’t know quite as much about,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.
More is known about variants that are currently more common in Colorado, the UK Variant and the California Variant. But the P.1 Variant has gained a foothold. Two cases in Boulder County were known on Wednesday. By Friday, the state was aware of 12. They were also found in Denver, Broomfield and Arapahoe County.
“We see that two household clusters are occurring but there are additional cases outside of those household clusters,” Dr. Herlihy said at a Friday afternoon news conference with Gov. Jared Polis.
The Brazilian Variant has some mutations in common with the UK and South African variants.
“We actually have pretty precise estimates now from CDC about the increased rates of transmissibility associated with most of the other variants,” noted Herlihy.
In addition to its increased transmissibility, there is possible increased severity and decreased ability of some antibody treatments. Dr. Herlihy says there is some limited data showing reduced vaccine effectiveness, but vaccination remains the best protection.
There may be other cases. Colorado does not do sequencing of all COVID cases to determine genomic data that would show variant types. But health experts are working to put a lid on the spread of the P.1.
“We are doing the typical contact tracing that we do so we are looking both at upstream at potential sources of infection for these P.1 cases that we have identified and we also look downstream to see which individuals these cases may have had contact with.”
Brazil has been hit hard by the variant, which has increased in a country with low vaccination rates and a low degree of participation in COVID prevention measures. The country reached a grim mark of 4,000 deaths a day this week.
Colorado is more vigorous in both prevention efforts. Dr. Herlihy pointed out that the state has been able to limit the spread of another variant of concern, the South African variant.
“We know that our case investigation and contact tracing work can be effective to limit transmission of these variants and that’s certainly what we’re going to be doing.”