The delta variant that was first spotted mid-2021 made waves globally — and not in a good way. Being a more transmissible variant, the delta strain of COVID-19 recreated the situation when the pandemic first made its impact in the world. New cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were at their peak, with delta making up 87% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in July.
But the good news is that we were able to put up a good fight against the more transmissible and dangerous delta variant by ramping up mass vaccination and implementing strict health and safety mandates. These efforts, among others, helped bring cases down, to the point that scientists believe that the recent delta surge was the last.
All over the world, COVID-19 cases dropped, leading infectious disease experts to predict that we were closer to herd immunity than we think — but not so fast.
New Delta Plus Variant Infecting People Globally
In late October 2021, scientists have identified a new COVID-19 variant that is a “sub-lineage” of the delta strain called AY.4.2. Coined as the delta plus variant, the AY.4.2 is reportedly more transmissible and can spread faster than its predecessor. As of writing, 40,233 COVID-19 cases can be linked to delta plus, 25 of which were spotted in the U.S.
The delta plus variant is the evolution of the preceding delta variant, involving mutations in the virus’ spike protein, enabling it to invade the body’s cells more effectively. Hence, scientists warn that the lineage strain can be more transmissible and spread faster if left unmanaged.
Delta Plus Variant Not Yet a Concern
Despite emerging cases of the delta plus variant, however, health officials say that it “is not yet a concern.” Scientists report that there has been no evidence of delta plus being more severe than the delta mother strain and are confident that the current vaccines are effective against it.
However, governments all over the world are conducting efforts to study the delta plus variant and come up with a solid action plan to stop its spread. According to the CDC’s Laboratory and Testing Task Force, scientists are prioritizing tests to understand delta plus and whether or not it can evade vaccine antibodies.
Resuming Basic Health Protocols Can Protect Against Delta Plus in the Meantime
As of writing, there is little known about the new delta plus strain that’s being spotted globally. While it is certain that the new variant can potentially spread faster, its severity is yet to be determined.
Tests and studies on delta plus can be expected in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, human behavior can make or break how we respond to the sublineage. It all boils down to the basics — wearing masks, keeping our distance, staying home, washing our hands, and most importantly, getting vaccinated.
These small compromises are what helped us recover from all the previous COVID-19 strains, and are what will help us fight and conquer the new delta plus variant. While health officials and scientists work to understand it better, let’s also do our part to help eradicate COVID-19.