A woman wears a mask while talking on the phone outside City Hall in Portland on Friday Dec. 11, 2020. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — A more contagious strain of the coronavirus that originated in the United Kingdom was detected in Maine, the state’s health department announced Wednesday.

Maine has been sending a fraction of positive virus samples to be tested for variants of the virus for several months amid concern about more transmissible strains from other countries. The U.K. variant was detected in a sample from a Franklin County resident who had a recent history of international travel and developed virus symptoms in early February, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The strain of the virus, known as the B.1.1.7 variant, seems to be between 40 and 70 percent more contagious than other variants, based on various scientific estimates. It has been confirmed in 34 U.S. states. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been shown to still protect against the strain.

In a statement, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said the agency expected the virus to arrive in Maine at some point given the numerous cases in other states.

“It is more important than ever that Maine people remain vigilant in taking the steps that prevent the spread of COVID-19 — wearing face coverings, staying at least 6 feet apart, avoiding gatherings, and washing hands frequently,” Shah said.