A report this week that two people in South Korea have been diagnosed with a “sub-lineage” of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has health care officials concerned about yet another threat from the novel coronavirus.
Delta plus, described by one scientist as a “variation of the (delta) variant,” was diagnosed in South Korea in a person who had traveled from the United States. The person was fully vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The second case involved a man who had not traveled outside of his hometown. South Korean health officials say they do not know how the person contracted delta plus.
The sub-lineage infection is still being investigated. It is not known if delta plus is more contagious than the delta variant or more deadly.
“It’s a cool name that’s trending,” Dr. Daniel Rhoads, section head of microbiology at the Cleveland Clinic, told USA Today. “When someone says ‘delta plus’ or any of these new names, it means the virus is continuing to evolve with us,” but there’s no evidence to suggest this new sublineage should be concerning.
Here is what we know about delta plus.
1. Delta plus has a mutation on one of its spike proteins. It is those spike proteins that allow the virus to infect cells. The mutation could make delta plus more infectious than the delta variant which is already highly infectious, but there is not enough evidence to determine how delta plus will act.
Colin Angus, a public health policy modeler and analyst in England, told The Washington Post that “there is no clear evidence that it (delta plus) conveys enough of a benefit to the virus to allow it to dominate the original delta variant. So, although it is clearly here, there is no obvious sign that it has gained a foothold over existing variants of the virus.”
2. Delta plus was first identified in India.
3. It has been detected in the United States and about a dozen other countries.
4. So far, delta plus infections appear to be infecting younger people more often than older ones.
5. Researchers believe that current vaccines generally provide good protection from delta plus. Early studies have shown that antibodies from those who are vaccinated are still effective against the variant.
6. Richard Novak, Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of Illinois Health, told Yahoo News that it’s too soon to say if delta plus can find a way to evade vaccines. “This is just a process of natural selection and selecting viruses that are more contagious.
“All viruses want to do is reproduce themselves. The ones that do become the dominant virus,” Novak said. “We’re going to see other variants. It’s on a continuum. The variants are likely to get more efficient as time goes on.”
7. For a strain to become dominant, it must be able to infect a large number of people, and so far, that has not happened with delta plus.
The symptoms of delta plus are believed to be the same as for the delta variant. They include:
· Fever or chills.
· Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
· Muscle or body aches.
· New loss of taste or smell.
· Sore throat.
· Congestion or runny nose.
· Nausea or vomiting.
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