TETON COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI) - Health officials believe the new and more contagious strain of COVID-19 is likely soon to be, or is already, in East Idaho.
The new variant of COVID-19, called SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.7, has been detected in numerous states, including Wyoming. On Saturday, the Wyoming Department of Health confirmed the state’s first case of the variant was found in a Teton County adult man.
Early contact tracing indicates the virus was transmitted locally, which leads Teton County, Idaho health officials to "expect that (the variant) is or will soon be in Teton County, Idaho," according to their recent press release.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has not detected the variant in the state yet.
"Nonetheless, we think it’s probably here, as it is in some nearby states," said Niki Forbing-Orr, the DHW Public Information Manager, in an email to Local News 8.
Idaho's public health laboratory is participating in the national Strain Surveillance project by regularly sending positive COVID-19 samples to the CDC to check for the new variant.
The public health lab is also planning to test samples to provide additional monitoring for the mutation in Idaho.
The new strain of COVID-19 is not expected to be any more deadly, but has been found to be more contagious, according to the CDC.
Health officials believe the variant will become the predominant strain of the coronavirus by March, which could add strain to an already overwhelmed healthcare system.
However, experts expect the current COVID-19 vaccines should be effective against this strain, but the urgency to vaccinate vulnerable populations is even higher now.