SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County and North Idaho have identified their first cases of COVID-19 variants that originated in California, health officials announced on Thursday.
The B.1.427/B.1.429 variant was initially detected in California in July 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has named it a variant of concern, as early research suggests it may be more infectious and could potentially cause more severe disease.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) notified Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) of the presence of one case of the COVID-19 B.1.427 variant and four cases of the B.1.429 variant, according to a press release. The cases were discovered through genome sequencing.
Panhandle Health District announced in a press release on Thursday that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare notified them about one case of the B.1.427 variant, which was also discovered through genome sequencing. It is the first case of a COVID-19 variant identified in North Idaho.
On March 12, SRHD announced the discovery of one case of the B.1.1.7 variant in Spokane County. The coronavirus variant was first identified in the United Kingdom and is known to spread more easily and quickly than others, which could lead to more COVID-19 cases. It was first detected in the United States at the end of December 2020.
Genome sequencing has not detected additional cases of the UK variant in Spokane County, SRHD said on Thursday.
Health officials are stressing the importance of following public health guidance, testing when someone is exposed or having COVID-19 symptoms and getting vaccinated when eligible to curb virus transmission.
Coronavirus vaccines currently available should provide good protection against the California and UK variants, health officials said.