The P.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2, commonly referred to as the Brazilian variant, is now spreading in the community in Canada. What’s more, it appears to be spreading faster and causing more severe outcomes than earlier variants.
The Brazilian variant reached Vancouver, British Columbia four weeks ago. At that time, BC had just 170 active cases, mostly 153 cases of the UK variant and 23 cases of the South African variant.
Fast forward a month and BC now has 2,771 active cases, 737 of which are the Brazilian variant and just 51 are the South African variant. In other words, the Brazilian variant has gone from 0% to 26.6% of positive cases and is spreading faster than the South African variant and the so-called “super-spreading” UK variant as well.
According to Canadian health workers, the P.1 variant also appears to be more dangerous than previous variants. This is supported by a Brazilian study, carried out in Manaus, which “estimate[d] that P.1 may be 1.4–2.2 times more transmissible and 25–61% more likely to evade protective immunity elicited by previous infection with non-P.1 lineages.”
While earlier coronaviruses affected men more severely than women, that trend is moderated in Brazilian variant cases. The Manaus team found that P.1 mortality was 24% higher in men and 64% higher in women than in infections with previous coronavirus variants.
The Manaus study as well as another carried out in Paraná found that the P.1 variant is more dangerous for younger people than previous variants. The two studies’ authors estimate it is 2.7-3 times more dangerous for those aged 20 to 39.
Canada is currently going through a third wave of coronavirus, with daily new cases on 3 April at over 11,000, equally the prior peak on 3 January. At 64,000 and climbing, the number of active cases is also approaching the country’s all-time peak of 83,000 in late January. Over 23,000 Canadians have died of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
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With thanks to epidemiologist Dr Zoë Hyde for her informative tweets and blog posts on the subject.