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First Case of Coronavirus Variant that Originated in South Africa is Cambridge Resident

The B.1.351 variant was first detected in South Africa.

February 18, 2021

Cambridge, MA, February 18, 2021 – The Cambridge Public Health Department announced today that the first case of the B.1.351 COVID-19 variant reported by the Commonwealth this week is a resident of Cambridge. The B.1.351 variant was first detected in South Africa.

The case, a woman in her 20’s, tested positive for COVID-19 in January. Upon testing positive, she isolated in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and there are no known contacts connected with her case. Detection of the variant comes many weeks after testing positive as genome sequencing, which confirms the variant, takes additional time to conduct. There was no travel history connected with this case. 

“Detection of the B.1.351 COVID-19 variant is testament to the strength of our communicable disease surveillance system in the Commonwealth”, said Claude A. Jacob, Chief Public Health Officer for the City of Cambridge. “It is also a reminder that this pandemic is far from over, and we all must continue to wear masks, social distance, and get vaccinated when it is our turn”.

According to the CDC, the B.1.351 variant is known to spread easily as is the B.1.1.7 originally found in the U.K. This is the first case of the variant from South Africa detected in the Commonwealth, and there are 29 known cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K. The evolution of variants of the coronavirus is to be expected, and are not considered to be widespread in the Commonwealth at this time. The public health department urges everyone to remain vigilant in their behavior to avoid further spread.


Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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