- Associated Press - Friday, March 19, 2021

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The South African coronavirus variant has been discovered in a Mississippi resident for the first time, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Friday.

A resident of Harrison County on the Mississippi Coast contracted the B.1.351 strain, which was first detected in South Africa and is believed to be more infectious.

The sequencing was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mississippi’s state health department submits samples to the CDC on a weekly basis for testing, Dobbs said.

There have been more than 140 cases of the South African variant that have been detected in at least 25 states, Dobbs said.

The strain shares some mutations with B.1.1.7, a more easily spread variant that was first identified in England late last year.



Dobbs said the discovery of the South African variant in Mississippi is “a strong reminder that we are not remotely out of this (pandemic) and we still need to exercise some basic caution.”

He advised mask-wearing and not gathering in large groups.

The state has reported 10 cases of the U.K. strain since it was first detected in Mississippi in mid-February. Dobbs said the health department plans to post more detailed information on the variants found in the state on its website in the coming days.

People eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine can make an appointment at COVIDvaccine.umc.edu or by calling the COVID-19 call center at 1-877-978-6453.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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