Health officials in Idaho have confirmed the first known infection of a person in the Gem State with the United Kingdom variant of the coronavirus, which is known to spread more easily and quickly.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said in a news release that the woman, who lives in Ada County, had traveled out of the state earlier this month and was likely exposed during her travels.

The variant was first detected in the U.S. at the end of December, stated the release. As of Wednesday, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,881 cases of the U.K. variant in 45 states.

Health officials encouraged people to get the COVID-19 vaccine because it also protects people from virus variants.

“As we work to offer vaccine(s) to more Idahoans and learn more about how these variants behave, our best defense is to stay consistent with our health and safety measures,” said Kimberly Link, the communicable disease control manager with the Central District Health. “We know that the choices we’ve made in the last year to wear a face covering, keep our distance from others, wash our hands frequently, and stay home when we’re sick will serve us well in helping to protect us from these potentially more severe variants.”

Earlier this month, the health district reported the presence of the U.K. variant in wastewater samples taken from the Boise area in late January. The samples also detected the presence of the California variant, which is not currently receiving national surveillance, stated the release.

In other coronavirus news:

Whitman County reported another COVID-19 death Wednesday, bringing its total to 44. The health department also received three new positive COVID-19 test results.

The Public Health – Idaho North Central District reported 34 new cases in the five-county region it covers, which included 31 in Latah County, two in Nez Perce County and one in Clearwater County. The majority of new cases in Latah County were from people between the ages of 18 and 29.

No new cases were reported in Lewis, Idaho, Garfield or Asotin counties.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories will post videos and activities on its website so that teachers, parents and students can participate in “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.”

Engineers typically visit classrooms as part of the global campaign, also known as “Girl Day,” but in-person visits will not take place this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative allows engineers to engage with students to help them understand the impact of their work.

To learn more about activities or request a virtual classroom visit from an SEL engineer, visit www.selinc.com/girlday.

Tomtas may be contacted at jtomtas@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.

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