There has been some good news on the coronavirus pandemic front in recent weeks.

However, on Thursday, Feb. 11, state health officials announced some bad news. The much-publicized, fast-spreading South African strain of COVID-19 was identified in North Carolina for the first time.

 The variant – officially known as “B.1.351” – was first found in the United States in January after being detected in South Africa in October. 

Local, state and federal health officials have said that it’s important to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible in order to keep down the number of mutated strains of coronavirus.   

Scientists are studying the effectiveness of current vaccines against the new strains – as well as the lethality.  However, state health officials say that current vaccinations should be effective against this unwelcome South African variant.

The North Carolina B.1.351 finding was in a sample taken from “an adult in the central part of the state who had not recently traveled.”

The person tested positive in a LabCorp test. 

North Carolina is the fourth state to discover a case of B.1.351.  So far, nine cases have been identified in the US.  North Carolina follows South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia in seeing the strain thought to have originated in South Africa.

According to information from the NC Department of Health and Human Services, “Data suggest this variant may be more contagious than other variants but does not suggest that it causes more severe disease.  Current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be effective against this and other new variants.”

State officials said the arrival of the strain in North Carolina had been anticipated.

Meanwhile, the state’s vaccination effort continues.  As of Feb. 10, more than 1.4 million doses of coronavirus vaccine had been given out in the state.