Do we need to worry about the delta plus variant?

Delta plus variant
Photo via Forest Service, USDA/Flickr (Public Domain)

A new COVID subvariant, discovered in Europe in March of 2021, is causing concern among some experts. Dubbed “delta plus”, the variant is a “sublineage” of the highly transmissible delta variant, according to USA Today. The subvariant has yet to become an issue in the U.S., despite recorded cases in the states, as well as in the UK and India.

The name “delta plus” refers to three variant subtypes: AY.1, AY.2, and AY.3. The delta plus variant shares a lot in common with its predecessor, delta, but differs in a key way. The primary difference regards a mutation in delta plus, which could allow the virus to better resist monoclonal antibody treatments, which are given to patients suffering from a severe bout of COVID.

Experts in India have labeled the subvariant as one of concern, but the U.S. has yet to take this step. As of now, American health experts say the delta plus variant is nothing to worry about. Despite initially reacting with alarm to news of the new variant, experts across the U.S. are in general agreement that, while we should remain aware of the danger any new variant can pose, delta plus is little more than “a cool name that’s trending,” as noted by Dr. Daniel Rhoads, section head of microbiology at the Cleveland Clinic.

While the delta variant itself is responsible for more than 90% of cases in the U.S., the AY.1 and AY.2 mutations are only responsible for .1% and .8% of these cases, respectively, between July 18 and 31, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. AY.3 was responsible for around 9.1% of delta cases in the same time period.

Experts are monitoring the delta plus variant, and all other emerging variants, closely, but have yet to feel concern over the mutation. As noted by Yale Medicine physician Dr. F. Perry Wilson, instances of delta plus have “over the past 6 weeks or so, been pretty stable.”

The most important thing to keep in mind, according to experts, is whether the currently approved vaccines are effective against emerging variants. In the case of delta plus, the vaccines appear to be effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization.

The best way to avoid getting the delta plus variant, or any other version of COVID-19, is to get vaccinated. Additionally, thorough hand washing and mask wearing can help slow transmission.

Sources: CDC, USA Today, Washington Post, Healthline

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