The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Southwest District Health have confirmed the first known B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2, which was discovered in South Africa in late 2020. The variant was found in an adult man living in southwest Idaho, according to a news release.
Laboratory testing identified the variant and this is Idaho's first identified infection with a known variant of concern of the COVID-19 virus. The release says there have been 19 infections with this variant reported from 10 states.
IDHW says this person recently traveled internationally and is thought to have been exposed before returning to Idaho. SWDH and IDHW are working to identify any close contacts who were possibly exposed to this person. Health officials will provide guidance to anyone possibly exposed and will monitor them for symptoms.
“We are not surprised to find this virus in Idaho,” said Dr. Christine Hahn, medical director in the Division of Public Health. “As we just learned from Boise City’s wastewater testing program this week, variant strains have arrived in the state. We remind Idahoans to continue wearing masks, physically distancing, washing hands frequently, and staying home when ill. In addition to getting vaccinated when it becomes available for you, those actions are the best things we can do now.”
In Ada County, a wastewater analysis showed low levels of California and the UK COVID-19 variants. The analysis showed low levels of the UK variant in Boise wastewater that accounted for 2% of the virus sequenced. The California variant also accounted for 2% of the virus sequenced from the wastewater.
Idaho public health officials are investigating infections they suspect are caused by different variants. The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories continues to expand the number of Idaho samples being sequenced to identify emerging strains and better understand how the virus is spreading.
Idaho has had 290 Idaho samples sequenced and published in national databases. 86 samples are in process, including 36 samples at IBL, according to the release.