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Members of the Wisconsin National Guard medical team help with free COVID-19 drive-thru testing at Blackhawk Technical College.

Two more coronavirus variants have been detected in Rock County—one first discovered in travelers from Brazil and the other from South Africa, health officials announced Thursday.

The P.1 and B.1.351 variant strains, originating in Brazil and South Africa, respectively, are the second and third variants that have been found in Rock County. The B.1.1.7 strain was detected in March, according to news releases from the Rock County Public Health Department.

Those strains spread more rapidly than the original novel coronavirus that swept across the country in 2020, according to the release.

P.1 and B.1.351 variants have unique genetic mutations that could affect the body’s ability to recognize and fight the virus, according to the release.

The variants could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and antibody infusions, but officials don’t think the variants lead to more severe illness, according to the release.

The increasing prevalence of new variants has been a top concern for health officials lately, prompting them to continually urge people to wear masks, wash their hands and avoid crowds even if vaccinated.

Health officials have suspected variants are among the causes for recent increases in coronavirus cases because of how quickly the variants spread.

There are 366 active and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rock County, up more than 200 from one month ago when there were 149 active and confirmed cases, according to health department data.

Health officials across the country say the pandemic is a race between vaccine and variants.

Creating more immunity helps prevent the virus from spreading. Viruses can mutate when they replicate, and health officials are concerned about more—and potentially deadlier—mutations forming.

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