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What we know about the delta variant of coronavirus found in India

2021-06-16T17:02:53.553Z

The delta variant of coronavirus, first found in India, has been found in 74 countries; it was declared of interest by the WHO.



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(CNN) -

A variant of the coronavirus first detected in India in February has now gone global.

It has appeared in dozens of countries and sparking fears that the strain could spearhead a wave of infection that could overwhelm healthcare systems, reverse reopening plans and potentially even undermine vaccine launch.

The B.1,617.2 strain, officially known as the delta variant, worries health officials around the world, including in the United States.

The delta variant now represents more than 6% of virus samples sequenced in the country, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While it may seem like a relatively small proportion, the speed of its growth is worrying.

A month ago, the strain accounted for just over 1% of sequenced virus samples, according to CDC data.

Experts believe that the delta variant triggered the huge wave of infections seen in India over the past two months.

It is now causing concern in the UK, where it now comprises 91% of new cases, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

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The spread of the variant came at the same time as a considerable increase in the number of cases in the UK in recent days, an increase that prompted the government to deploy the army to the worst affected areas to help run tests and do monitoring programs.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) designated variant B.1,617 and its sublineages, including B.1,617.2, as "variants of interest" on 10 May.

That classification means that a variant may be more transmissible or cause more severe disease, not respond to treatment, evade the immune response, or are not diagnosed by standard tests.

The delta variant was the fourth to be declared a "variant of concern" by the WHO;

the others are B.1,1.7, which was first seen in the UK and is now known as the Alpha variant;

B.1,351, or Beta, first detected in South Africa;

and P.1, which was first found in Brazil and is now called Gamma.

This is what you need to know.

Is the delta variant more contagious?

Experts now believe that the delta strain is probably more transmissible.

Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, said at the weekend that the strain is "about 40% more transmissible" than the previously dominant Alpha variant, which was already more transmissible compared to the original strain of the virus.

Speaking at a COVID-19 briefing at the White House on Tuesday, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said studies support the idea that the strain is more communicable.

"Clearly now its transmissibility appears to be higher than that of the wild type," Fauci said, adding that the 6% share that the strain now has in the United States is similar to a tipping point previously seen in the United Kingdom.

“This is a situation, as it was in England, where they had a dominant B.1,1.7, and then the [B.1.] 617 took over.

We cannot allow that to happen in the United States, ”Fauci said.

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Is the delta variant more deadly?

Preliminary evidence suggests that the delta variant might cause a higher risk of hospitalization compared to the Alpha strain, according to Public Health England (PHE).

While PHE cautioned that more data is needed, its early findings showed that people infected with the variant were more likely to suffer from serious illnesses.

An analysis of 38,805 sequenced cases in England showed that people infected with the delta variant had 2.61 times the risk of hospitalization in 14 days compared with the Alpha variant, when variables such as age, sex, ethnicity and vaccination status, PHE said last week.

Fauci echoed the concern, saying the variant "may be associated with greater severity of the disease."

Do delta variant vaccines work?

There is evidence that existing covid-19 vaccines are working against the delta variant.

A team of researchers from BioNTech and the University of Texas Medical Branch reported Thursday that they had found evidence that the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine would protect against infection with the delta variant and others.

They tested the blood of 20 fully vaccinated volunteers against lab-engineered versions of various virus variants and found evidence that the immune system should neutralize them.

UK researchers reported last week that most people who receive two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech coronavirus vaccine would still have protection against the new variant, although they said the antibodies appear to be significantly lowered.

Hancock also said that the research so far suggests that "after two doses of the vaccine, we are confident that you will get the same protection that you had with the previous variant."

People need to be fully vaccinated to be fully protected.

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) UCLH Center for Biomedical Research also said that after one dose of the vaccine, people were less likely to develop an antibody response sufficient to protect against the delta variant, compared to the previously dominant variant.

In a press release accompanying their research, the scientists said their findings suggest that the best way to combat the new variant is "to rapidly administer second doses and provide boosters to those whose immunity may not be high enough against these new variants. ».

The first data published by PHE showed similar results for the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.

They also appeared to be effective against the delta variant once both doses had been administered.

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In how many countries has the variant been detected?

The variant has been identified in 74 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, the WHO said in its latest weekly epidemiological update published on Tuesday.

It is spreading very fast;

A month ago the WHO said it was present in just over 40 countries.

Other variants have also spread rapidly around the world, including new variants that were no more transmissible than established bloodlines.

The researchers note that sometimes a dominant strain is simply the variety that rides a wave of transmission driven by travel and gathering of people.

What does this spread mean for global roadmaps out of lockdown?

The UK, where the delta variant is now dominant, is providing something of a warning to the rest of the world.

Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at University College London, said on Wednesday that the variant could lead to a "substantial third wave" of COVID-19 infections in the UK.

The rapid spread of the delta variant has prompted France and several other countries to impose new restrictions on travelers coming from the UK.

It has already caused concern that the UK government's plan to lift the remaining coronavirus restrictions on June 21 could worsen the spread.

Hancock said the government is closely monitoring the data to determine its next steps.

The outbreak in India has also had an impact on the global supply of vaccines.

India is a leading manufacturer of vaccines, but when cases began to increase, its government restricted the export of covid-19 vaccines.

And the more the virus spreads, the more chance it has to mutate and evolve into new variants that could eventually resist current vaccines, threatening to undermine other countries' progress in containing the pandemic.

- CNN's Maggie Fox, Niamh Kennedy, Eleanor Pickston, Kara Fox, Robert Iddiols, Virginia Langmaid and Aditi Sangal contributed to this report.

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Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2021-06-16

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