At a White House briefing on COVID-19, on June 22, Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health stated that 20.6 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in the US were due to the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus. He warned that the highly contagious Delta variant is the "greatest threat" to America's attempt to eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19," Dr Fauci said at the briefing.
While other scientists are tracking the COVID-19 variant say it's on track to become the dominant virus variant in the US, White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr Fauci explained that in a significant rise from nearly 10 per cent two weeks ago, Delta variant now makes up more than 20 per cent of all new infections in the US. It is the most contagious yet and in instances where individuals are not vaccinated, it may trigger serious illness in more people than any other known variant. This COVID-19 variant was first identified in India.
"We have the tools, so let's use them and crush the outbreak", he asserted.
However, the good news is that the US COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Delta variant, said Dr Fauci who is also the head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
"We know our vaccines work against this variant; however, this variant represents a set of mutations that could lead to future mutations that evade our vaccine, and that is why it is more important than ever to get vaccinated now to stop the chain of infection, the chain of mutations that could lead to a more dangerous variant,” Rochelle Paula Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.
The Delta variant of COVID-19, which is highly transmissible has now mutated further to form the ‘Delta plus’ variant, however, there is no cause for concern in India yet, informed scientists. Last month, the WHO had coined the B.1.617.2 strain as the 'Delta' variant of COVID-19 which was identified as one of the drivers of the devastating second wave of coronavirus, especially in India.
The Delta plus variant has been formed due to a mutation in the Delta or B.1.617.2 variant, first identified in India and one of the drivers of the deadly COVID-19 second wave. Though there is no indication of the severity of the disease due to the new variant, Delta plus is resistant to the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19 recently authorized in India.
The Delta variant recently became the dominant strain in the UK, surpassing the Alpha variant first discovered in the country. The strain makes up more than 90 per cent of new cases and delayed the UK's scheduled reopening. The transmissibility of the Delta variant is unquestionably greater than the wild type SARS-CoV2 as well as the Alpha variant, Dr Fauci said, adding that it is associated with increased disease severity as reflected by hospitalisation risk compared to the Alpha variant.