The Delta variant is serious. Here’s why it's on the rise.
The virus variant that caused infections to spike in the U.K. is now spreading in the U.S., and experts are very worried
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially declared the Delta variant, a coronavirus strain first detected in India, “a variant of concern.” This designation is given to variants shown to be more transmissible than the original strain, that can cause more severe disease and potentially reduce the effectiveness of treatments or vaccines.
Why was the Delta variant classified as a variant of concern?
The Delta variant, also referred to as B.126.96.36.199.2 [and] believed to have originated from India, is one of the most concerning variants … It is more likely to lead to disease, hospitalizations and possibly death.
The Delta variant looks like it might be up to 60 percent more infectious, which is why the CDC really put a bold label forward in calling it a variant of concern. They only do that when they think a variant is concerning enough that it could change the course of a disease or potentially pose a threat to someone who gets it.
The Delta variant already accounts for 18 percent of cases in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, and about six percent of cases nationwide. It has already spread to more than 70 countries and is now the most dominant variant in India, the United Kingdom, and Singapore. Last week, Delta caused more than 90 percent of the new COVID-19 cases in the U.K., leading to a 65 percent bump in new infections since May 1. On Monday, to curb Delta’s spread, the U.K. government decided to postpone “freedom day,” which would mark the end of public health restrictions.
The Delta variant is 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant—first identified in the U.K.—which in turn was about 50 percent more transmissible than the ancestral Wuhan strain. “It’s a super spreader variant, that is worrisome,” says Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. It has features that enable escape from the immune system and is perhaps more evasive than the Beta variant (B.1.351) first identified in South Africa, which was the worst until now, says Topol. “Plus, it has the highest transmissibility of anything we've seen so far. It's a very bad combination.”
Dismayed by the trajectory of Delta in the U.K., Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned President Joe Biden last week, “we cannot let that happen in the United States.”
The President echoed those sentiments, tweeting “Folks, the Delta variant—a highly infectious COVID-19 strain—is spreading rapidly among young people between 12 and 20 years old in the U.K. If you’re young and haven’t gotten your shot yet, it really is time.” A complete dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is still effective at preventing serious COVID-19 stemming from Delta infection.