SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Originally discovered in India, the coronavirus Delta variant is now being detected in the United States, including in Utah.
The Centers for Disease Control reports it accounts for 10% of COVID-19 cases in the country and is beginning to take hold.
The Delta variant is believed by health experts to be more transmissible than the Alpha variant, also known as the U.K. variant, B.1.17.
“They have done studies where they’ve compared it to other variants of concern and other variants not of concern of the SARS-COV-2 virus, and [it] shows that it does transmit more easily,” said Kelly Oakeson, Utah Public Health Laboratory chief scientist for bioinformatics and next generation sequencing.
This new mutation was first identified in Utah on April 8, according to data from the Utah Department of Health. As of Friday, data now shows 300 cases have been found.
“At this point isn’t our most abundant variant, that’s still going to be the Alpha variant or the U.K. variant, B.1.1.7, but we’re keeping an eye on it, it is increasing at a pretty good rate,” Oakeson said.
The CDC reports the variant is 40% to 60% more transmissible than the U.K. variant, and believe it could be the dominant strain in the country by fall. Oakeson said he would not be surprised if the mutation dominates by then.
“The trends we’re seeing here are similar to what we’ve seen in other states in the United States as well as other parts of the world, where you see introduction and then you quickly start seeing a pretty dramatic increase in the number of cases,” he said.
Health officials said the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against the Delta variant, and as long as people continue to get the shot, Oakeson does not believe the mutation will impact herd immunity efforts.
“We want to have enough of the population vaccinated that we reduce transmission, that’s the total goal. Will having more people infected impact that goal? No. We still want to get, vaccination is the easiest way to prevent spread of the virus,” he said.
Six variants of concern have been identified in Utah. The first was identified in mid-September as B.1.429 (Epsilon).
Based on data from UDOH, Salt Lake and Utah counties have the highest amount of variants cases.