HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Delta variant accounts for about 90% of new COVID cases here in the US.
"We're in an arms race really against these evolving variants," said Jeanne Marrazzo, M.D., director of UAB's Division of Infectious Diseases.
This variant showed up on the scene in April and has become the dominant strain in some areas.
"The Delta variant is so good at propagating itself in the community, that it's already become the dominant strain in some parts of the world that have actually had very good vaccination coverage," said Marrazzo.
The first issue with this variant is the increased transmission.
"Remember that the Coronavirus has these spikes that stick out, that you see in all the cartoons of the virus. The Delta variant has essentially evolved or changed the composition of those spikes to do a couple of different things. They are better at attaching to the respiratory cells that line, your respiratory tract. So that means that they are probably 50 to 90% more contagious," said Marrazzo.
This mutation is also more dangerous.
"With the Delta variant, there are more cases that seem to indicate that you're more likely to get hospitalized or get severely ill," said Marrazzo.
Why are variants called "Alpha" and "Delta"?
According to the CDC, genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been emerging and circulating around the world throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.351 (Beta), B.1.617.2 (Delta), and P.1 (Gamma), variants circulating in the United States are classified as variants of concern.
The Delta variant also has a better chance at standing up against the vaccine.
"It seems to be a little bit better at getting around the vaccines that we have. The vaccines still work, but you have to be absolutely sure to get both doses," said Marrazzo.
The Delta variant may soon replace the Alpha variant, making it the main reason people catch the virus, but health professionals still say the best way to keep yourself safe is to get vaccinated.
For more information on where you can get vaccinated, click here.