Four different COVID-19 variants "of concern" have been found in Wyoming over the past several months, the state health department said Tuesday.

The agency says recently analyzed genetic sequencing from a large batch of positive samples collected from residents since November combined with previously reported results showed at least 40 cases have involved the United Kingdom variant (B.1.1.7), more than 40 cases combined of two California variants (B.1.427 and B.1.429) and one with the South Africa variant (B.1.351).

"Because this is far from a comprehensive review of all positive patient samples, the true number and geographical spread of variants of concern in Wyoming is likely greater than what has been identified," said State Health Officer Alexia Harrist.

Harrist says the variants are "of concern" because they each have been shown to transmit more easily between people, may lead to more serious illnesses or may have resistance to some COVID-19 treatment options.

"The best way for people to protect themselves from getting sick is to get a COVID-19 vaccine, which are available to the general public now throughout Wyoming," said Harrist. "We still also recommend staying home when you are sick, avoiding large gatherings and wearing masks in most public settings."

"Because the variants can affect the success of certain treatment options, we have shared updated information with healthcare providers across the state to help them help their patients," Harrist added.

Among Wyoming residents, there have now been 700 coronavirus-related deaths, 47,860 lab-confirmed cases and 8,669 probable cases reported since the pandemic began.

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