SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A total of 13 people in Utah have now tested positive for Lambda — a COVID-19 variant first detected in Peru and one that’s spreading rapidly in South America.

That’s according to the Utah Department of Health, which categorizes the Lambda variant as “a variant of interest” and not yet “a variant of concern.”

So is it more transmissible than Delta, the dominant strain in the United States and Utah?

“We know very little about transmissibility, severity, and also evading the vaccine response. So time will tell,” said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Diseases Physician.

He says new variants will continue to emerge, and spread, if people around the world remain unvaccinated. Lambda is the latest variant to gain attention, and Stenehjem says it won’t be the last.

“When you have high rates of transmission — whether it be in Peru, Brazil or Chile, wherever it may be — that’s just an opportunity for mutations. And with mutations you get variants, and you worry about a variant being developed that can evade the immune response from the vaccine,” said Stenehjem.

So far, 13 cases of Lambda have been detected. In comparison, more than 3,000 cases of the Alpha variant and 1,652 cases of Delta have been reported in Utah.