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Virus Variant From South Africa Detected In Hawaii

Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP

HONOLULU — Hawaii has detected a new COVID-19 variant in the islands, one that first emerged in South Africa.

The state Department of Health said Monday the virus, which has technical name B.1.351 was found in an Oahu resident with no travel history.

Some tests suggest the South African variant may be less susceptible to antibody drugs or antibody-rich blood from COVID-19 survivors, both of which help people fight off the virus.

But vaccination offers some hope.

Acting State Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said in a statement that a study conducted in South Africa where the variant was predominant showed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was effective in preventing serious disease requiring hospitalization and in preventing death.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that as of Sunday, 81 cases of the South African variant have been detected in 19 states and Washington, D.C.

The department's State Laboratories Division sequences genomes of COVID samples from across the state to detect variant strains.

Hawaii has already detected eight cases of the U.K. or B.1.1.7 variant, including two more announced Monday. These were in an Oahu resident who traveled to the U.S. mainland and a household contact of this person.

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