Contagious and deadly COVID-19 variant confirmed in Shelby County, officials say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department confirmed a total of six cases of the new COVID-19 Brazilian variant in the community.

While that doesn’t sound like a lot, health officials are sounding the alarm because it may not take much for this strain to spread.

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“It’s important for people to not let their guard down,” said Dr. Shirin Mazumder, infectious disease specialist at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

SCHD reports there are four cases of the P-1 variant, and two of the p-2 variants, both strains originating in Brazil.

Mazumder said the concern isn’t just limited to how easily this variant can spread; she said this variant may be more resistant to antibodies.

“That means individuals are developing a reinfection that may have had COVID before and they could get reinfected with this particular variant,” said Dr. Mazumder.

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The CDC reported 118 cases of the P-1 Brazilian variant across the United States with cases in 22 jurisdictions including Tennessee. At this time, there aren’t any confirmed cases in Arkansas or Mississippi.

But doctors said they’re keeping a close eye on this variant because those who are vaccinated may not have full protection from this particular strain.

“But what we do know is that the vaccines that are currently available, they do still work,” said Mazumder. “They still protect severe illness, they reduce the rates of hospitalizations and death.”

The health department believed people who recently traveled to Mexico brought the variant strains back when they returned to Shelby County.