Recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the delta variant of the novel coronavirus is the greatest threat to eliminating COVID-19 we have seen yet.
The highly contagious variant, which was first found in India, continues to concern health officials worldwide.
In the U.K. and India, the delta variant now comprises more than 90% of new COVID cases, and in the U.S., that number is rising as well, as it makes up 20% of all cases, compared to only 1.3% of cases last month, and 0.1% of cases in April.
The CDC says the percentage of delta variant cases will only increase as it is expected to double every two weeks.
“You know the good news is the vaccines are still holding up the best we can tell,” said Dr. James Neid, the director of infection prevention at the Medical Center of Aurora in Colorado. “My level of concern hasn’t changed. COVID has the potential to be a severe, lethal virus, and we can still see it, albeit at lower levels.”
The delta variant of COVID-19 is like any of its other variants: a natural mutation of the virus so it can stay alive. Researchers estimate the delta variant is 50-60% more contagious than the Alpha variant, or the COVID variant found first in the UK, which was already 50% more contagious than the original coronavirus, but the vaccine still works well against it as most of the cases still appear in the unvaccinated.
“The concern is [that the variants will find ways around the vaccine], but that’s what the virus is constantly doing,” said Dr. Neid. “It’s constantly changing its ability to bind and be as successful to adhering to somebody’s body and spreading within somebody’s body. So, that’s a known strategy of the virus. I think it’s been very impressive how well the antibody responses have held up.”
As has been reiterated so many times in the last year and a half, handwashing, masking, and hygiene, even among the vaccinated, remain the best defense to sparing more of these cases, especially in those who have yet to get vaccinated.
The World Health Organization has identified a delta plus variant, which now has around 200 cases and one death worldwide. The organization’s ambassador to Russia recently said just a vaccine is not enough to reduce that variant’s spread.