CHICAGO (CBS) — The first confirmed case of a coronavirus variant from Brazil has been reported in Illinois, when Northwestern University researchers detected the P.1 variant during sequencing analysis of a COVID-19 specimen.

The Chicago Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Public Health announced the first case of the Brazil variant on Friday.

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“The case in Chicago was identified by the Pathogen Genomics research team at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine through sequencing analysis of a COVID-19 specimen. A follow-up investigation by CDPH found that a household contact of this individual had also recently been unwell with COVID-19, but neither this individual nor their household contacts reported travel outside Illinois,” CDPH officials said in a news release.

“We identified it through our research program following mutations in the virus over time in the Chicago area,” said Dr. Egon Ozer, assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases at Northwestern and a Northwestern Medicine physician.

The P.1 variant was first detected in four travelers from Brazil during a routine airport screening in Tokyo in January, and has since been discovered in several other countries.

The first U.S. case was identified in Minnesota in January.

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“Evidence suggests that this variant can spread more easily than most currently circulating strains of COVID-19, and there is some evidence that some mutations in the P.1 variant may affect the ability of antibodies (from natural infection or vaccination) to recognize and neutralize the virus, but additional studies are needed,” CDPH said in a statement.

“The news doesn’t change public health guidance around COVID-19. The same strategies used to contain the spread of COVID-19 will work against the new variants: wear a well-fitting mask; practice social distancing; avoid gatherings; don’t travel unnecessarily; wash your hands often. And get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” officials added.

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As of Friday, Illinois had reported a total of 1,194,702 cases of COVID-19, including 85 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant from the United Kingdom, and two cases of the B.1.351 from South Africa. Illinois has reported a total of 20,700 coronavirus deaths so far.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff