COVID-19 b1617 'double-mutant' India variant identified in Michigan

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday that the state has confirmed the first case of the India variant of COVID-19 b1617, which has been dubbed a "double-mutant" variant.

The MDHHS said one case was confirmed in Clinton County, just north of Lansing.

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India crossed a milestone Wednesday of 200,000 people lost to the coronavirus as new infections surged in cities and rural areas and overwhelmed health care systems. The country on Wednesday also reported 362,757 new infections, a new global record, which raised the overall total past 17.9 million.

The India variant of COVID-19 is dubbed a "double-mutant" because it carries two mutations that have only been seen separately in other variants but never together in one. 

This variant was identified in India and has higher transmission rates, making up almost 60% of all positive cases in the country's epicenter, Maharashtra.

"India is going through what we have as our greatest fears with this pandemic right now," said Dr. Matthew Sims, the head of infectious disease research at Beaumont. "Our concern is a lot of that may be due to this variant that they have."

Reuters reported that the Pfizer vaccine is effective against the variant, but at a reduced capacity.

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The CDC has warned against traveling to India, even if you are vaccinated, as the risk of catching the virus is still high given the country's high level of spread of COVID-19.

"Travel spreads variants, we know that. So, as much as possible, travel should be restricted," Sims said.

The U.S. will restrict travel to India beginning May 4.