Skip to main content

Minnesota confirms six cases of 'double mutant' COVID variant found in India

It's the latest COVID variant found in Minnesota.

The "double mutant" variant of COVID-19 that has overwhelmed India's healthcare system has been found in Minnesota, with the state health department finding six cases of the B.1.617 variant through genomic sequencing. 

Speaking Tuesday, Kris Ehresmann, the director of infectious disease at the Minnesota Department of Health, mistakenly described the variant as the B.1.651 strain, which also originated in India. But a health department spokesperson confirmed to Bring Me The News on Wednesday that "there was an error" in Ehresmann's comments. 

"While there is a B.1.651 variant from India, the few variants with India lineage we have in MN are the B.1.617 variety," the spokesperson said via email. 

The B.1.617 variant is believed to be behind a horrifying surge in India that has seen total cases rise to over 20 million, more than a third of them popping up in the past several weeks. 

"According to the World Health Organization, this variant was first identified in India last December. The World Health Organization has described it as a 'variant of interest,' suggesting it may have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, causing more severe disease or evading vaccine immunity," said Ehresmann. 

The six confirmed B.1.617 infections have impacted children to people aged in their 60s, according to Ehresmann. All of the cases involve three households, with symptom onset developing in April. 

"Two of the households had members with known association with travel. One of these six cases was hospitalized," said Ehresmann. 

The dominant variant in Minnesota is currently B.117, also known as the U.K. variant, which is believed to now be responsible for the majority of current infections in the country. The health department has also confirmed a total of 65 cases of the P.1 variant (Brazil) and 88 cases of B.1351 (South Africa).

These are referred to as "variants of concern," which is used to describe variants where there is evidence that they are more transmissible, can lead to more serious disease, and can evade antibodies in those previously infected or reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

"Variants of interest" are a step down from "variants of concern" in that they have genetic markers associated with changes that has the potential to make it more transmissible and severe, or reduce vaccine efficacy, but this hasn't yet been confirmed.

Traveling poses variant risk

The situation in India has overwhelmed the nation of 1.4 billion people. India reported a single-day record 3,780 deaths Tuesday and 382,315 new cases. Reports out of the crisis-stricken country show lines of people at crematoriums and hospitals turning away patients as they run out of oxygen to treat those with critical infections. 

Critics of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi point to the fact that the country was still hosting massive festivals, campaign events, and live sports as recently as last month, and has refused to impost national lockdown measures, as contributing to the virus' spread.

It is nonetheless a prime example of the danger variants pose, and why Ehresmann says it's still very important to follow federal travel guidance, regardless if you are vaccinated or not. 

"It's a reminder of how potent this virus is and how careful the world needs to be, even as we make progress in vaccination in places like Minnesota," said Ehresmann.

"The virus is still out there circulating and mutating," Ehresmann said. "And to go back to the forest fire metaphor that we've used before, in many parts of the world, it's burning hotter than it is here. That makes it very important to be cautious and aware before traveling."

Travel from India the U.S. has been restricted by the federal government, though American citizens and permanent residents can still return to the U.S. from India. The CDC continues to discourage people, especially unvaccinated people, from traveling internationally. 

The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people get tested for COVID 3-5 days after travel, while those who are not fully vaccinated should be tested 1-3 days before travel, and 3-5 days after returning. Upon return, travelers are urged to quarantine until their test results are in. 

Tuesday was the first day since Mar. 22 that Minnesota reported fewer than 1,000 cases, though health commissioner Jan Malcolm says "there is still an extremely high level of virus circulating all over the state." 

Next Up

Blaine VFW video screengrab crop N West Twitter

Authorities now looking into MN lawmaker's report of assault

Video shows Rep. Nolan West being grabbed and pushed out of a public event.

TajPharmaImages WIkimedia Commons ivermectin

COVID treatments: Essentia Health to help test 3 existing meds

The clinical trial includes the much-discussed drug ivermectin.

Screen Shot 2022-01-24 at 3.48.57 PM

Suspect crashes into Minneapolis snow plow, fires shots at plow driver

The plow driver was pulled to the side of the road when the incident happened.

cold Minneapolis

Coldest day of the winter is possible this week in Minnesota

An air temp of -30F isn't out of the question too far from the metro.

polley freeborn county jail roster jan 2022 resize

District fires school counselor accused of sexually assaulting student

He's been charged with felony criminal sexual conduct.

Moorhead family

Authorities pinpoint source of CO that killed family of 7

The victims, all members of Hernandez-Pinto family, were found dead in a Moorhead home.

polymet mining

Court issues mixed ruling on PolyMet, orders more analysis on water permit

The court, however, overruled several challenges to the permit.

SPPD Kua person of interest 01-24-2022

Police release images of woman driving stolen Audi that had puppy inside

It's not clear whether she was involved in the vehicle theft.

J R Jones - Anoka County Jail 2021.10.16 - Resize crop

Fatal hit-and-run driver can avoid prison time with plea deal

He was charged with striking and killing a 56-year-old who was walking her dog.

Screen Shot 2022-01-24 at 11.21.49 AM

Alex Rodriguez: 'I'm not a Packers fan'

He was at Lambeau screaming "Cheese!" and "Let's go!" during the playoff game against the 49ers.


coronavirus, covid-19

First case of South African COVID-19 variant found in Minnesota

Minnesota has already seen cases of the Brazilian and U.K. variants.


Walz responds to Osterholm's prediction of a variant-driven spike

Osterholm remains confident that the B.1.1.7. variant will cause big problems within 14 weeks.


How the Delta variant is affecting Minnesota's COVID-19 status

The number of cases identified as the Delta variant are rising.

coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2

Minnesota confirms America's 1st case of Brazil P.1 COVID strain

The strain was found in a Twin Cities metro resident who recently traveled to Brazil.

vaccine, covid, moderna

MDH: 89 cases of COVID-19 out of 800,000 fully vaccinated so far

Health officials said these cases arguably support the vaccines' effectiveness.

covid, vaccine

Health officials: 'Widespread transmission' of B117 variant in MN

The variant is more contagious and is becoming the dominant strain, health officials say.

covid-19, coronavirus

Washington Post IDs Minnesota as possible emerging COVID hot spot

Minnesota health officials say the uptick in cases is concerning.

coronavirus, covid-19

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, Feb. 15

The latest information from the health department.