A variant of the coronavirus that has been linked to the mammoth COVID crisis surging in India has been identified in Ada County, according to Central District Health.
The health agency, which has jurisdiction over Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties, announced Thursday that a man under 30 who was infected in April and who “reported having recently traveled internationally” had a strain of the virus known as B.1.617.2, which was first identified in India. He was not hospitalized, according to CDH.
In recent weeks, India has faced an out-of-control second wave that has left at least 250,000 people dead and 23 million infected with COVID-19, according to The New York Times. The South Asian country has accounted for nearly half of the globe’s daily cases in May, according to Sky News, and has broken records with over 400,000 new daily infections.
Multiple variants are circulating in the world’s second most populous country, including the U.K. variant, B.1.1.7. But scientists have linked the B.1.617 variant, of which there are multiple sub-lineages, to many of the cases surging across India. The variant is believed by some scientists to be “more transmissible and slightly better at evading immunity than existing variants,” according to Nature.
On Monday, the World Health Organization, the United Nations’ public health agency, elevated the India variant from a “variant of interest” to a “variant of concern.” The higher threshold for variants of concern is used when evidence suggests that viral strains are more transmissible, virulent, or resistant to public health measures, according to the WHO.
Though Central District Health did not disclose where the infected Ada County man had traveled, the variant identified in India has now been found in more than 40 countries. Last week, the White House moved to restrict travel from India, citing the magnitude of the country’s crisis.
There have been 139 cases of variants of concern recorded in CDH territory, including 135 in Ada County, according to the health district. Other variants found include the U.K. (B.1.1.7), California (B.1.427/B.1.249), New York City (B.1.526) and Brazil (P.1) versions. The Brazil variant hasn’t been found in a person in Ada (it was in Elmore) but was detected in Boise wastewater.
The U.K. variant has been found 264 times in Idaho and the California variants 57 times. The New York variant is next at seven cases, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
On Tuesday, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare moved the state into Stage 4 of its reopening, easing restrictions across the state and removing recommended limits on gathering sizes.