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Doctors worry about new COVID-19 variant ‘Delta Plus’

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 5:23 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Health leaders are now establishing another concerning strain that has emerged from that first Delta variant. It’s called Delta Plus.

Officials with the state health department said the Delta Plus variant has not been detected in Alabama yet, but they say it looks to be even more contagious than the other strains.

“We don’t know exactly what this is going to look like in real life just yet because it is still being detected fairly early,” Jefferson County Health Department Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Wesley Willeford said. “There’s concern that it may be more contagious than the Delta variant, which is already significantly more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19.”

Willeford said Delta Plus is a variation of the Delta strain that originated in India. He said so far, it seems to be more contagious.

“Because of the type of virus it is, it changes gradually over time,” he said. “Those changes can lead to changes in the way it infects people and can lead to changes in the clinical syndrome that you get.”

Willeford said one concern is that a variant could form that isn’t protected by the vaccine, but there is no way to know right now exactly how much the shot’s efficacy could decrease. He said so far, we have not seen it, but it is possible.

“It’s very difficult to determine what is going to happen,” Willeford said. “It is essentially a random process that results in the mutations and there is really no way to predict what is going to come out next.”

Willeford said with new variants continuing to form, unvaccinated people still need to be cautious.

“The risk is still out there,” he said. “The virus can spread very easily among people who aren’t vaccinated.”

Willeford said COVID treatments like monoclonal antibodies seem to be less effective against the variant strains. He said the treatments work best against the original COVID strain.

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