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Delta variant: 7 things to know about the highly contagious coronavirus strain
Laura Ramirez-Feldman
July 22, 2021·11 min read
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Delta variant: 6 things to know about the highly contagious coronavirus strain
After declining sharply for months, COVID-19 cases are climbing in the U.S. once again as a result of the Delta variant, which some experts have called “the most troubling variant by far.” Yahoo News medical Contributor Dr. Kavita Patel, a primary care physician in Washington, D.C., explains what we've learned so far about the fast-spreading strain, and how to protect yourself and loved ones from it.
After declining sharply for months, coronavirus cases are climbing once again as a result of the Delta variant. Although they remain well below peak levels, the U.S. is now seeing about 30,000 new cases per day. The most recent seven-day average shows hospitalizations are also up by nearly 36 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the variant — especially when it comes to preventing serious illness — health experts say the recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations is primarily due to localized outbreaks in areas of the country with low vaccination rates. Currently, some of the most concerning hotspots are in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida. In these areas, where infection levels have soared, some hospitals are struggling to keep pace as the Delta variant spreads.
However, an uptick in cases has now been reported in all 50 states, including areas of the country with a comparatively higher percentage of the population vaccinated.
Howard Douglas receives a shot at a mobile COVID-19 vaccination site in Orlando on Wednesday. (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Yahoo News Medical Contributor Dr. Kavita Patel told Yahoo News that in the next six to eight weeks it is likely that cases will continue to rise — even in the Northeast, where infection levels have remained quite low. However, this surge, she said, is different from previous ones in that new cases “are almost all exclusively in people who are unvaccinated.”
Here's what to know about the fast-spreading variant and how to stay safe and protect others.
Is the Delta variant more contagious than previous strains of the coronavirus?
Some experts have called Delta “the most troubling variant by far” due to its high transmissibility. According to the World Health Organization, the strain is about 60 percent more transmissible than B.1.1.7 — the U.K. variant that was recently renamed Alpha, which was the dominant strain of new cases in the United States until about a month ago.
The Delta variant first surged across India in March and April 2021, and pushed the country’s COVID-19 death toll past 400,000, according to the Indian government. But researchers from Brown, Harvard and the Center for Global Development believe the number is much higher (up to 5 million deaths).
In the United States, in just three weeks Delta progressed to dominance and now makes up approximately 83 percent of new cases in the country. Patel said this is just an estimate, and experts believe that number may be higher due to Delta’s ability to replicate faster. “We now have mounting evidence that the Delta strain itself reproduces in people's nasal passages, mouth and body faster, up to 1,200 times higher than previous coronavirus strains,” she told Yahoo News.