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COVID-19 variant, first identified in Brazil, is detected in Washington

The P.1 COVID-19 variant, which was first identified in Brazil, appears to be less vulnerable to our bodies’ immune systems, according to health officials.

SEATTLE — A new coronavirus variant has been identified in Washington state for the first time.

Public Health – Seattle & King County announced Thursday that the P.1 variant, which was first identified in Brazil, was recently detected in a COVID-19 test sample in King County.

All three COVID-19 variants, including the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK and the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, have been detected in Washington state.

“If we let down our guard, these variant strains will make us pay,” Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a statement. “The upside is that we can take steps to limit the damage. The same precautions that have helped us drive down case counts in the past can also protect us from the variants, as long as we are diligent.”

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The P.1 variant appears to be less vulnerable to our bodies’ immune systems, and there are signs it may be more contagious, according to the health department. Health officials also said previously infected patients could be more easily reinfected by the P.1 variant.

Vaccines may be less effective against the P.1 variant, although the health department said recent research has shown “more encouraging signs” about the vaccines’ efficacy.

The P.1 variant has been detected in at least 10 states, including Oregon and Alaska, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials encouraged people to continue masking up and practicing physical distancing and handwashing help prevent the spread of the variant.