‘South African variant’ detected on O‘ahu

HONOLULU – The Department of Health State Laboratories Division (SLD) has detected a new variant of concern. This new strain has the technical name B.1.351 and is sometimes referred to as the South African variant. It was found in an O‘ahu resident with no travel history.

“This is concerning because B.1.351 has a mutation that makes it more transmissible from one person to another, and a separate mutation that might make it less responsive to the antibodies we form when we have COVID or get vaccinated,” said SLD Director Dr. Edward Desmond.

The mutation that increases transmissibility is called N501Y. The mutation that may reduce effectiveness of antibodies is called E484K.

The N501Y and E484K mutations had previously been seen in Hawai‘i, but this is the first time both mutations have been found together in one virus.

“While theoretical concerns have been raised about whether vaccination will be effective against new variant strains, the real-world data so far are reassuring” said Acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble. “A study in South Africa showed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was effective in preventing serious disease requiring hospitalization and in preventing death even where B.1.351 was the predominant strain.”

Two new cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, also known as the U.K. variant, also have also been found, for a total of eight B.1.1.7 variant cases detected in the state to date. This variant, first detected in Hawai‘i in early February, has the N501Y transmissibility mutation, but not the E484K mutation. The most recent cases of B.1.1.7 involve two O‘ahu residents, one who traveled to the mainland United States and a household contact of that individual.

Investigation into cases of recently detected variants is ongoing. Close contacts have been quarantined.

“Research shows community mitigation measures are effective in reducing the risk of transmission of even the most aggressive variants,” said State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char. “This means wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and washing hands is more important than ever. The effectiveness of vaccines in preventing serious illness or death means we should get vaccinated as soon as it is our turn.”

The SLD continues to perform genomic sequencing weekly on COVID samples from across the state in order to detect variant strains including strains of concern. This systemic search for variant strains is accomplished with the collaboration of private sector laboratories, to whom the SLD is grateful.

  1. Jesse March 9, 2021 7:23 am Reply

    Let me get this straight, calling it the “China Virus” is racist but ‘South African variant’ is just fine?

  2. KauaiFarmMan March 9, 2021 10:41 am Reply

    What a joke! You call this fear propaganda journalism? We know there is infinite mutations of every virus. Every time a more “contagious” variant pops up we are going to scramble in fear. It’s clear the people that want us to stay shut down will use every chance they get to keep us in fear. Gimme a break. Stop this nonsense people. A virus that kills less then .01% is not our biggest threat. It’s these lying politicians and the crooked journalists that work for them. Give us back our freedom. Stop this medical tyranny!

    1. KauaiMathMan March 9, 2021 7:46 pm Reply

      KauaiFarmMan is obviously confused by the difference between numbers and percentages. Death rate from COVID is more like 1%, not 0.01%. If he wants to argue that such a death rate isn’t a big deal, he can try to make that case. But please, let’s base the argument on facts rather than this ignorant hogwash.

      1. Googleman March 9, 2021 10:59 pm Reply

        Math man actually is seems you in fact are the confused one. As of today according to CDC data there have been 29,200,000 cases. 527,000 deaths “with” covid. Simple division deaths to cases = your death rate percentage of 0.018% granted your risk of death can increase depending on age and underlying health conditions. Apply those statistics to yourself accordingly. The average odds of survival 99.98%. Even if it were 1% you’d be crazy to bet on the over under of you dying vs survival.

      2. truth be known March 10, 2021 1:55 pm Reply

        Math Man, here’s the latest statistic from the CDC concerning the wearing of masks:
        “A report released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that mask mandates decreased growth rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US during the first 100 days of implementation by an average 1.32% from March 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. This meager amount of 1.32% is within the margin of error and is statistically insignificant.” Excerpt from Ed Griffin’s Red Pill.
        Keep wearing your mask. Your dentist will love you as the latest “statistic” shows a substantial increase in gum disease and cavities due to the wearing of masks.

        1. KauaiMathMan March 10, 2021 5:53 pm Reply

          Truth be known,

          Perhaps you can explain why the people who are at their core the most anti-science and anti-math and who use the word “truth” in their views almost always try to use science to justify their arguments, and in doing so completely distort science and misrepresent truth? My post had nothing to do with mask policy, but why am I not surprised that after highlighting the objectively and blatantly incorrect mathematical assertions of others on this post, that you choose to pivot and take on mask policy (which I’m sure we don’t agree on)? Like those who went before you on this post, you choose to try to use mathematics to support your point. I don’t mean to be pejorative, but trying to convince you guys of concepts of exponential growth rooted in differential equations, when literally you cannot understand sixth grade math of percentages, is a fruitless exercise. Maybe America will be great again when we relearn how to read, write, do math, and understand science.

  3. KauaiMathMan March 10, 2021 1:45 pm Reply


    Really? Try again. Let’s use your numbers for the calculation. 527,000 divided by 29,200,000 equals 0.01804, which is 1.804%. Based on those CDC numbers, COVID death rate is 1.8%.

    Try googling, “how to calculate a percentage”, and in the mean time, stop generating incorrect information.

  4. I saw a Vampire once March 10, 2021 5:34 pm Reply

    They are looking at this virus in terms of a limit sense. Yes. Limit. If a person catches the virus, the known limits are breathing and wearing a face mask. From our view point. For a physician, those limits are the vaccines they make and how our body works. Following so far? Good. If you stretch those limits 1.8% death rate is too high. Why? The correct gene that detaches itself from the virus, still is not know. They can only hope the virus subsides. This is definitely in math term. Better known as limits. Understand?

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