BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) and Central District Health (CDH) announced Wednesday that they have confirmed the first known infection with the UK variant of the coronavirus.
A news release said the person is an adult female living in Ada County, who traveled out of state and it is believed she was exposed while traveling. Any other information about the woman is confidential and will not be released.
Epidemiologists with CDH will identify any close contacts of the woman who were possibly exposed. If other people are found to have been exposed, guidance will be given and health officials will monitor for symptoms.
The UK variant is known to spread more easily and quickly than other variants of the virus. The release says this variant was first detected in the United States at the end of December 2020. The CDC reports there are 1,881 cases of the UK variant in 45 states to date.
The release says people are encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is their turn because there is evidence that authorized vaccines will protect people from virus variants.
“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," said Kimberly Link, Communicable Disease Control Manager with Central District Health. "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."
CDH reported that small levels of the UK variant were present in wastewater samples submitted from Boise in late January. The samples also showed the California variant, but that is not currently getting national surveillance.
The South African variant of the virus was identified last week in a southwest Idaho resident. It was the first official discovery of a variant of concern in Idaho. The release says a second case of the South African variant has now been identified in Idaho and an investigation is ongoing. The release did not say where the second case is located.
With variants of public health concern emerging in Idaho, IDHW will begin reporting variant counts on its data dashboard later this week.
Last week, CDH shifted public health orders to advisories in Ada and Valley counties. A public health advisory is a set of strong recommendations and does not replace or supersede orders enacted by a city. The City of Boise does have a public health order in effect.
Idaho Public Health officials are actively investigating infections suspected to be caused by SARS-CoV-2 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 in the state.