A variant strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been detected for the first time in Montana.
The Montana state health department Wednesday confirmed three cases of the U.K. variant in Gallatin County.
Jon Ebelt, public information officer with the state health department, told YPR News all three individuals had recovered and the state is working with Gallatin County to learn more about the cases.
“We have been preparing for this, conducting surveillance for COVID-19 variant strains for several weeks, so this comes as no surprise,” Ebelt says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the U.K. variant, also called B.1.1.7, spreads more easily and quickly than other variants.
"In January 2021, experts in the UK reported that this variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding," according to the CDC.
CDC data show the U.K. variant has been reported in 46 states, not including Montana. It was first detected in the U.S. in December 2020.
Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley says it’s a reminder the pandemic isn’t over and efforts to slow the spread, like masking, staying home when sick and washing hands, are still necessary.
Kelley and Ebelt say all Montanans are encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them.