Wednesday, February 24, 2021
COVID Variant Identified in Idaho Man
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A man in southwest Idaho has been identified as the first Idahoan to have a COVID variant.
   
Saturday, February 20, 2021
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

The first confirmed infection involving a coronavirus variant in Idaho has been identified by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Southwest District Health.

An adult male living in southwest Idaho has tested positive for the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2, which was discovered in South Africa in late 2020. He recently traveled internationally and is thought to have been exposed before returning to Idaho.

The case was identified among the first SARS-CoV-2 samples sequenced by the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories.

Idaho has had 290 samples sequenced—most of them out of state since Idaho just gained the capacity to sequence the virus. Eighty-six samples are currently being processed, including 36 at Idaho Bureau of Laboratories.

This particular variant has been identified in 19 infections in 10 states. It was first detected in the United States on Jan. 28 when officials found two cases in South Carolina.

It’s thought the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines may be less effective against the South African variant than the United Kingdom variant because its mutation is believed to allow the virus to elude some of the antibodies produced through vaccines. That said, evidence indicates vaccines offer some protection, particularly against severe disease and death.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that ramping up vaccinations will help reduce the spread of variants; the longer the virus propagates, the more mutations develop.

Epidemiologists at Southwest District Health are working with the Health and Welfare Department to identify close contacts who may have been exposed to the man from southwest Idaho.

“We are not surprised to find this virus in Idaho” said Dr. Christine Hahn, medical director in the Idaho 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,” she added. “In addition to getting vaccinated when it becomes available for you, those actions are the best things we can do now.”

 The South African appears to be 50 percent more transmissible than the original coronavirus. The United Kingdom variant, which has been identified in 42 states, is up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original coronavirus.

Health officials say it appears that the United Kingdom variant may cause more serious illness and even an increased risk of death. But both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appear to be effective against it.

The South African variant does not so far appear to cause more serious illness or increased risk of death than previous strains.

 

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