Story at a glance

  • The B.1.617.2 variant appears to spread more easily from person to person than previous strains of the virus and has been designated a “variant of concern."
  • WHO officials said Wednesday it’s been found in more than 80 countries.
  • Health experts have warned the variant could become the dominant strain in the U.S., as it accounts for about 10 percent of all new cases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the Delta variant of the coronavirus first identified in India is now circulating in more than 80 countries

The B.1.617.2 variant appears to spread more easily from person to person than previous strains of the virus and has been designated a “variant of concern” by the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 


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Health experts have warned the variant could become the dominant strain in the U.S., as it accounts for about 10 percent of all new cases, raising concerns outbreaks could occur among pockets of unvaccinated Americans. 

The delta variant recently became the dominant strain in the United Kingdom, surpassing the alpha variant first identified in the country in fall. 

“In terms of the delta variant, we do have demonstrated increased transmissibility. There are several studies that are underway that have shown this, and it’s even more transmissible than the Alpha variant,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s team leader on COVID-19, said during a Q&A Wednesday.  

Kerkhove said there are some reports the variant causes more severe COVID-19 symptoms. 

“We have seen some reports about increased severity in the delta variant, those studies need to be confirmed,” she said.


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“We need more information to determine is it really the variant itself, or is it a combination of factors,” Kerkhove added. 

A recent study from the U.K. has shown the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines provide sufficient protection against the delta variant. Public Health England found that the full two-dose Pfizer vaccine offers 96 percent protection against hospitalization, while the AstraZeneca vaccine, not yet approved for use in the U.S., provides 92 percent protection. 

The WHO official also said a new variant recently designated lambda, or C.37, has been added to the health agency’s list of variants of interest. 


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Published on Jun 16, 2021