The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) and Central District Health (CDH) have confirmed the first known infection with the UK (B.1.1.7) variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. The individual infected is an adult female who lives in Ada County.
The woman had traveled out of state earlier this month, and it is believed that she was exposed during her travels. Additional case-specific information about this individual is confidential and will not be released.
Through the disease investigation process, epidemiologists with CDH will identify any close contacts of the individual who were possibly exposed. If other people are found to have possibly been exposed, health officials will provide guidance to them and will monitor them closely for symptoms.
The UK variant is known to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. This variant was first detected in the US at the end of December 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 1,881 cases of the UK variant among 45 states to-date. Idahoans are encouraged to choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because there is evidence the authorized COVID-19 vaccines will protect individuals from virus variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are under way.
“As we work to offer vaccine to more Idahoans and learn more about how these variants behave, our best defense is to stay consistent with our health and safety measures. We know that the choices we’ve made in the last year to wear a face covering, keep our distance from others, wash our hands frequently, and stay home when we’re sick will serve us well in helping to protect us from these potentially more severe variants,” said Kimberly Link, Communicable Disease Control Manger with Central District Health.
On February 17, 2021, Central District Health reported the presence of the UK variant among wastewater samples submitted from the Boise area in late January. The tested wastewater samples also detected the presence of the California variant; however, this variant is not currently receiving national surveillance.
Last week, laboratory testing identified the South African variant (B.1.351) of SARS-CoV-2, in a southwestern Idaho resident. It was the first official discovery of a variant of concern in Idaho. A second case with the South African variant has just been identified in the state, and an investigation is ongoing. With variants of public health concern emerging in Idaho, DHW will begin reporting variant counts on its data dashboard later this week.
Idaho Public Health officials are actively investigating infections suspected to be caused by SARS-CoV-2 variants. The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (IBL) continues to expand the number of Idaho samples being sequenced to identify emerging strains and better understand how the virus is spreading in the state. The UK variant was identified at IBL.
Idaho has had 313 samples sequenced as of Feb. 23.
For Idaho-specific information about the novel coronavirus, please visit https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/.