WHO says delta is turning into the dominant Covid variant globally

A joint government and NHS public information display will indicate that a Covid-19 variant concern has been identified locally and will provide guidance to residents on June 11, 2021 in Hounslow, UK.

Mark Kerrison | In pictures | Getty Images

Delta, the highly contagious variant of Covid-19 that was first identified in India, is becoming the dominant strain of the disease worldwide, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist said on Friday.

This is due to its “significantly increased transferability,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO senior scientist, during a press conference at the agency’s Geneva headquarters. Studies suggest Delta is about 60% more transmissible than Alpha, the variant first identified in the UK that was more contagious than the original strain that emerged from Wuhan, China in late 2019.

The situation worldwide “is so dynamic because of the variants circulating,” she added.

The variant has spread to more than 80 countries and continues to mutate as it spreads around the world, the WHO said on Wednesday. It now accounts for 10% of all new cases in the United States, up from 6% last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged Americans on Friday to get vaccinated against Covid, saying she expected Delta to become the dominant variant of coronavirus in the United States.

“As worrying as this Delta strain is about its hypertransmittance, our vaccines are working,” Walensky told ABC’s Good Morning America. If you get vaccinated, “you will be protected against this Delta variant,” she added.

In the UK, the Delta variety recently became the dominant variety there, surpassing Alpha, which was first discovered in the country last fall. The Delta variant now accounts for more than 60% of new cases in the UK

The WHO declared Delta a “questionable variant” last month. A variant can be described as “worrying” if, according to the health organization, it has been shown to be more contagious, more fatal, or more resistant to current vaccines and treatments.

WHO officials said Wednesday there are reports that the Delta variant also causes more severe symptoms, but that more research is needed to confirm these conclusions. Still, there is evidence that the Delta strain may cause different symptoms than other variants.

Swaminathan said Friday that scientists still need more data on the variant, including how it affects the effectiveness of Covid vaccines.

The German company CureVac earlier this week named variants as one of the reasons why its Covid vaccine was only 47% effective in a clinical study with 40,000 people.

An analysis published by Public Health England on Monday found that two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech or AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective against hospitalizations from the Delta variant.

“How many become infected and how many of them are hospitalized and seriously ill?” said Swaminathan on Friday. “That is something that we are watching very closely.”

– CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt and Rich Mendez contributed to this report.

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