YORK COUNTY, Maine — During the Maine CDC coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said a second case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 has been confirmed in Maine.
Shah said the individual is someone from York County who had a recent history of domestic travel.
The Maine CDC has completed its investigation and have not found any evidence of a connection with the first case that was confirmed last week in Franklin County, Shah said.
The second individual is "doing well," Shah said, and is continuing to isolate.
Shah reiterated that the Maine CDC is continuing to seek out this variant, which originated in the United Kingdom, and other COVID-19 variants in partnership with clinical laboratory partners such as Jackson Lab. The Maine CDC is also doing testing at the Maine CDC lab in Augusta.
"Because we are actively looking for these cases, we expect to find more and more individual cases of not just this variant, but potentially other such variants as we go forward," Shah said.
On Feb. 10, the Maine CDC confirmed the first case of the UK variant in Maine in an individual from Franklin County who had recently traveled internationally.
For both cases, Shah said the Maine CDC was able to establish contracting the variant was likely linked to the individuals' travel history.
"So, we are not in a situation, thankfully right now, where we have detected the variant in an individual with no travel history," Shah said. "That being said, that has occurred in other states."
Shah said that is a possibility on the horizon. For these two cases, the Maine CDC was able to work with the individuals and make sure they were isolating or quarantining quickly. Shah said the concern is that eventually these variants will gain a foothold and start being transmitted from person to person.
"The variants can't spread if we don't give them an opportunity to," Shah said, nodding to the importance of wearing face coverings and social distancing. "But it's a risk, it's a concern, it's one of the reasons for my caution right now because they are out there and I don't want them to start spreading."
The variant has been detected in 40 states, with 1,173 reported cases, according to the U.S. CDC.
According to the U.S. CDC, this variant is a more highly transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2. It was first detected in the U.S. at the end of Dec. 2020.
In a briefing last week following the confirmation of the first case in Maine, Shah said anything that is more contagious can lead to more cases and overall may increase hospitalizations. But new data suggests this new variant may not just spread more easily, but if it infects someone, that person may have more serious COVID-19 and may need to be hospitalized and may even have a higher rate of death.
Based on clinical data available, both of the vaccines currently authorized and in use in Maine (Pfizer and Moderna) are effective against this variant.
In addition to the UK variant, there are two other variants circulating globally, including in the U.S.: one that was originally detected in South Africa in Oct. 2020, B. 1.351, and another found in Brazil, P.1.
The U.S. CDC says so far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.
For more information about the B.1.1.7 variant from the U.S. CDC, click here.
Watch the Maine CDC's Tuesday coronavirus briefing here: