DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - At least two coronavirus variants are present in Iowa with one first identified in Europe now believed to be the most prevalent strain in the state, and public officials say they have confirmed a case of the more recent Brazil strain in eastern Iowa.
The European variant is believed to be about 50% more infectious that the original virus strain but health officials said they are not seeing more severe illnesses from it. They believe the current vaccines are effective in preventing serious illness.
The Brazil variant is still under study.
“We are still learning about the characteristics of this strain including any potential impact on vaccine effectiveness,” said Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman Sarah Ekstrand in a statement released Thursday.
The case was found in Johnson County through genetic sequencing done by a state laboratory, which has been doing surveillance for new strains of COVID-19.
Public health officials are investigating the person to determine how they may have been exposed.
The Brazil variant, known as P.1, is more contagious than the original strain and has been spreading across Brazil this year. It may also be more aggressive than the original strain, and health workers have reported patients requiring far more oxygen than last year.
Brazil has recorded about 350,000 of the 2.9 million virus deaths worldwide.
The new strains of the virus are in part responsible for a recent increase in cases in Iowa, predominantly among people between ages 18 and 29. State data shows 27% of the new cases in the past week fell into that age group.
Overall Iowa reported 519 new confirmed cases on Friday and 13 additional deaths for a total of 5,870 deaths in the past year.
Hospitalizations reported on Friday increased to 226 from 215 the day before.
Iowa has 838,544 fully vaccinated people, or 26.6% of the population, placing the state 15th in the nation for the share of its total population fully vaccinated, according data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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