Department of Health Confirms First COVID-19 “UK Variant” in Wyoming
The Wyoming Department of Health confirmed the state's first case of the "UK Variant" of the COVID-19 virus, otherwise known as B.1.1.7. on Saturday. The case was identified to be an adult male in Teton County.
WDH said they are still investigating the case, but that they believe that exposure to the virus variant did occur locally.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH stated that the department is not surprised by the case, and that they were expecting the variant to eventually make its way to Wyoming.
“It is not unusual for variants to emerge with viruses and that’s been happening during this pandemic with COVID-19,” Harrist said. “However, this strain is more transmissible than previous COVID-19 variants and that is a serious concern.”
While the symptoms and illness of the variant aren't believed to be any more serious than the original virus, it can travel more easily between people.
"A variant spreading more easily between people means the number of infections could grow causing more illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths,” she said. “That’s something no one wants.”
She continued, stating that "It is still very important for Wyoming residents to wear masks, to practice physical distancing and avoid large gatherings and to stay home when they are ill unless seeking medical care.”
Harrist also noted that it's important for individuals to continue to get testing, if they believe they've been exposed to the virus or are showing symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.
The Wyoming Department of Health offers local testing options, as well as at-home COVID-19 testing kits through a company called Vault Health. These tests are available to Wyoming residents at no cost and, they emphasized, insurance is not necessary.
WDH is also now offering COVID-19 vaccines to individuals aged 70 years or older. The current COVID vaccine is believed to be effective against the UK variant as well. Wyoming vaccine distribution information can be found here.
Though the first case of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant was discovered at a commercial lab, the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory is monitoring samples for this and other COVID-19 variants in-house. WPHL is a part of the Wyoming Department of Health.
More information about COVID-19 in Wyoming can be found here.