Public Health Officials Identify South African COVID-19 Variant in Massachusetts

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced the first case of the B.1.351 COVID-19 variant identified in the Commonwealth. Genetic sequencing completed at the Broad Institute on behalf of DPH has confirmed the variant, which was originally identified in South Africa.

The case is a female in her 20s who resides in Middlesex County; she has had no reported travel.

The B.1.351 variant is known to spread easily. The Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory is working in collaboration with many healthcare and academic partners to quickly identify variants of concern by sequencing a subset of positive samples.

Two other variants of concern are the B.1.1.7 originally found in the U.K., and the P.1 variant, which was originally detected in Brazil. Currently, there are 34 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Massachusetts; there are no confirmed cases of the P.1.