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Second case of UK strain of coronavirus found in Alaska

State says the January case was related to out-of-state travel
(John Dougherty/KTVF)
(John Dougherty/KTVF)(KTVF)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:13 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The state has detected a second case of the B.1.1.7 variant of the novel coronavirus, it announced on Monday during a media briefing. The strain of the virus is commonly known as the U.K. variant, due to where it was first widely reported.

The more easily transmissible strain of the novel coronavirus was first identified in Alaska in late January. State officials have said the person who tested positive for the strain of the virus had traveled to a state with known cases of it in December. On their return to Alaska, the person began noticing symptoms of COVID-19 and was tested and quarantined.

The newly discovered case has a similar narrative. State officials said Monday in a media availability that the test was performed in January and the person had traveled to a state with known cases of the more transmissible variant. The person was first tested at the airport, said Infectious Disease program manager Louisa Castrodale. However, Castrodale said, the traveler’s airport test was not the positive test submitted to the state’s public health lab for genetic sequencing, as not all positive COVID-19 tests are sequenced at this time.

Jayme Parker, who manages the state public health laboratories, says of the 1,000-1,500 weekly positive COVID-19 tests in the state each week, the public health lab aims to genetically sequence 200-300.

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, said Alaskans can and should still be tested as they return from out-of-state travel.

“Travel is a way for these variants to be introduced very quickly into a region,” Zink said.

Even though the state’s disaster declaration has expired, Zink said travelers can still access free testing at the airport, and it’s highly encouraged, even though it is no longer required by the State of Alaska.

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