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Two cases of South African COVID-19 variant in Montgomery County, health officials say

The governor's office reported the first case of the variant in Maryland on Saturday.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — There are two cases of the South African coronavirus variant in Montgomery County. The two cases are connected to travel, according to Montgomery County's top public health officer, Dr. Travis Gayles. 

The announcement comes just three days after Governor Larry Hogan's office announced the first case of the South African variant, found in a person in the Baltimore area with no travel history.

"State health officials are closely monitoring the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the state," Governor Hogan said in a statement on Saturday. "We strongly encourage Marylanders to practice extra caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this variant. Please continue to practice standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and physical distancing."

The strain, believed to have originated in South Africa, was first identified in the U.S. on January 28 through two cases in South Carolina. It has not been shown to cause more severe illness or higher risk of death than other variants, but it is believed to be more contagious than other strains.  

RELATED: VERIFY: What do we know about the coronavirus strain in South Africa?

The South African variant is the second variant of COVID-19 to be identified in Maryland. The first was the United Kingdom variant, which the Maryland Department of Health announced it identified on January 12. Six more cases have been identified since then.

We are working to confirm additional details about the Montgomery County cases, stay with WUSA9 for the latest updates.

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