JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska has detected the state’s first known case of the coronavirus variant identified last year in the United Kingdom, officials said Tuesday.

The infected person is an Anchorage resident who had traveled to a state where the variant had already been detected, the Alaska health department said. The person first experienced symptoms on Dec. 17, was tested three days later and received a positive result on Dec. 22.

The resident lived with another person in Anchorage, who also became ill. Both isolated and have since recovered, officials said.

It was not yet clear if the second person also was infected with the variant.

Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the state epidemiologist, said in a news release that the discovery of the variant is not surprising because viruses “constantly change through mutation.”

He said this is one of several “variants that has been carefully tracked because it appears to spread more easily and quickly than other strains of the virus.”


As of Monday, there have been 293 confirmed cases of the U.K. variant in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alaska on Monday reported to the CDC that the variant had been found.

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, said it is likely the variant will be detected again soon.

The CDC says the variant could become dominant in the U.S. by late spring and could lead to an increase in infections, officials said.

Alaska has been sequencing the coronavirus since March to monitor mutations. When significant variants were detected last fall, the state labs began looking for them in Alaska as well.