First cases of UK COVID-19 strain found in Snohomish County

Health officials confirm two cases of the contagious strain of COVID-19 were found in Washington state, according to a release from the state health department.

Washington State Department of Health (DOH), Snohomish Health District and the UW Medicine Virology Lab, announce that the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 were found in two test samples originating from two Snohomish residents, DOH officials said. 

"We thought this variant of concern was here and now we know it’s here. It was a huge team effort by the UW Medicine Virology Lab and required development of several new rapid tests to detect and confirm it," said Dr. Alex Greninger, Assistant Professor of the Clinical Virology Lab at UW Medicine in the statement.

Snohomish Health District has begun standard case investigation, isolation, and contact tracing prior to learning about the new virus strain cases, said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District.

"Containment protocols are no different for B.1.1.7 variants than they are for all other cases of COVID-19. Follow-up investigation is underway to learn more about these cases and the individuals who tested positive for this strain," Spitters said.

The B.1.1.7 variant was originally detected in the UK in September of last year. DOH says the variant spreads more quickly and easily than any other variant. According to the CDC, there is no evidence showing the new coronavirus variant causes more severe illness or death.

"While finding the B.1.1.7 variant is concerning, we knew it was only a matter of time before we found evidence of it here in Washington. That said, the health and safety of all Washingtonians remains our top priority," said Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH. "Now that this variant has been found, it underscores the absolute importance of doubling down on all the prevention measures to protect Washingtonians against COVID-19."

The Oregon Health Authority on Saturday confirmed a second case, in someone from Yamhill County, a week after the first case in the state was detected in Multnomah County.

Authorities in Washington, Oregon and Idaho have been assuming that the B.1.1.7 variant is spreading in the Northwest.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.