Why Utah doctors say not to panic about the Delta Plus variant

Delta Variant

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Delta variant has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States, causing a majority of new infections. A new version of this variant, Delta Plus, is now causing a small number of cases in the U.S. – and even here in Utah.

The more cases of COVID-19, the more mutations that will show up in communities, said Kelly Oakeson, the chief scientist of bioinformatics and next-generation sequencing.

“It’s rolling the dice. The more variants that arise, the more deadly they become, and we could start seeing even more vaccine breakthroughs,” he said.

Compared to the Delta variant, Oakeson said Delta Plus simply means there’s an additional spike protein, and there’s not enough research to know if it’s more transmissible.

Inside the Utah Public Health Laboratory, researchers study coronavirus genetic sequencing. Oakeson said as of Wednesday, they’ve detected about 50 cases of Delta Plus.

“In contrast, we’ve got 3,700 cases of Delta, total that we’ve sequenced,” he said. “It’s very, very low, on the number of cases we’ve sequenced, so only a small fraction.”

Will Delta Plus become the next dominant strain? Oakeson said only time will tell.

To best limit the spread, he said to continue to follow public health guidance.

“Vaccination is still effective against the Delta and the Delta Plus variants. Wearing a mask is a good thing – especially indoors and in public settings,” Oakeson said. “You know, hand washing, social distancing, all these things we keep preaching, they’re still working. Keep doing them.”

Researchers continue to monitor the strains of coronavirus, but as of now, Oakeson said Delta Plus transmission remains low in our communities, and he said there’s no need to panic.

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