The first infections of the more infectious Brazilian variant of the coronavirus (Covid-19) have been found in Belgium, according to several experts.
At least four cases of the P.1 strain, which can re-infect people who previously contracted another mutation, have been detected, with two confirmed samples in Brussels, one in Liège and one near Wezembeek-Oppem, De Standaard reported on Tuesday.
The previously confirmed case in Brussels has reportedly been connected to the person being in contact with someone who had visited Brazil in December last year.
"He probably became infected via that route," Inge Neven, the head of the Brussels health inspection, told De Standaard, adding that intensive contact tracing and wide-spread testing has begun.
A possible fifth case of the mutation in Brussels is being investigated, according to Neven.
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The Liège case was discovered by chance by the University of Liège, which is taking random samples, and was confirmed by Professor Guy Baele of the Rega Institute for Medical Research (KU Leuven), who said the infection was discovered in a 57-year-old man from the municipality of Seraing.
Although the man had not travelled recently, there was a striking genetic link to another infection detected in France, which also contained the Brazilian mutation.
As this case was discovered by chance, it is possible there are more infections with this particular variant of the virus spreading across Belgium.
The strain raises new concerns, as it can infect people who have antibodies and has also been proven to be more infectious.
"Not much data is known about the variant yet, but it falls into the category of the South African variant," according to Baele. "There is some concern that vaccines against these variants would be less effective, but that remains to be seen."
The Brussels Times