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First case of South African COVID-19 variant confirmed in Idaho

Coronavirus

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The following is a news release from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) and Southwest District Health have confirmed the first known infection with a known variant of concern of the virus that causes COVID-19 in an adult male living in southwest Idaho.

Laboratory testing identified the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2, which was first discovered in South Africa in late 2020. This is Idaho’s first identified infection with a known variant of concern of the COVID-19 virus. There have been 19 infections with this particular variant reported from 10 states. This person recently traveled internationally and is thought to have been exposed before returning to Idaho.

Epidemiologists at Southwest District Health are working with DHW to identify any close contacts who were possibly exposed to this person. Health officials will provide guidance to anyone identified as a close contact and will monitor them closely for symptoms.

Additional case-specific information about this individual is confidential and will not be released.

“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.”

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.

This variant was identified among the first SARS-CoV-2 samples sequenced by IBL, which continues to work with clinical laboratories, public health districts, and providers to expand the number of Idaho samples being sequenced to identify emerging strains of concern and limit their spread.

Idaho has had 290 Idaho samples sequenced and published in national databases, which is how they are shared nationally. Eighty-six samples are in process, including 36 samples at IBL.

For Idaho-specific information about the novel coronavirus, please visit https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/.

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