First Wyoming case of COVID-19 ‘UK variant’ identified in Teton County

New variant and mutation of coronavirus (Shutterstock)

CASPER, Wyo —The Wyoming Department of Health confirmed the state’s first case of the “UK variant” Saturday, Jan. 16.

WDH said the variant was identified in a Teton County adult male by a commercial healthcare lab. 

“While further investigation is ongoing, early information suggests exposure to the virus variant occurred locally,” the WDH release Saturday said.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said the department is not surprised and expected the variant would be found in Wyoming at some point.

“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.”

Harrist noted the UK variant does not appear to cause illnesses to be more serious. “But 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.”

Currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are believed to be effective against the ‘B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant’ strain, WDH said. 

Harrist said it is still very important for Wyoming residents to wear masks,  physically distance,  avoid large gatherings, and stay home when feeling ill except to seek medical care.

“We also don’t want people to avoid testing if they may have been exposed or are have symptoms that could be COVID-19,” Harrist said. 

Vaccine distribution and at-home COVID-19 testing information can be found on the state health website.