The Indian ‘Delta’ coronavirus variant now makes up more than one-fifth of all new cases in the U.S., officials revealed on Tuesday.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said during a White House COVID-19 Response Team press briefing that the mutant strain currently accounts for 20.6 percent of infections.
This means the prevalence of the variant has doubled in just two weeks, when the variant made up 10 percent of cases, and increased seven-fold from one month ago, when it made up just 2.7 percent of cases.
Fauci discussed how quickly the Delta strain overtook the UK, now linked to 99 percent of infections, and said the variant is the greatest threat to the U.S. being able to defeat the virus.
‘The transmissibility is unquestionably greater’ than the original variant and the Kent ‘Alpha’ variant that originated in the UK, he said.
‘It is associated with an increased disease severity as reflected by hospitalization risk compared to Alpha.’
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Dr Anthony Fauci warned om Tuesday (above) that the greatest threat to the U.S. defeating the COVID-19 pandemic is the Indian ‘Delta’ variant
The Delta variant, which is more infectious than other strains, now makes up 20.6% of infections in the U.S., up from 10% two weeks ago
Fauci said it’s important to watch the UK because it could be a precursor to what’s to come in the U.S., as the Delta variant continues to spread
Known as B.1.617.2, the Delta variant has been labeled as a ‘double mutant’ by India’s Health Ministry because it carries two mutations: L452R and E484Q.
L452R is the same mutation seen with the California homegrown variant and E484Q is similar to the mutation seen in the Brazilian and South African variants.
Both of the mutations occur on key parts of the virus that allows it to enter and infect human cells.
Its transmissibility has been clear as it wreaks havoc in the UK.
On Tuesday, the UK recorded 11,625 new cases of COVID-19, which is the most reported since mid-February.
This is a 450 percent increase from 2,000 case recorded in late April, when the Delta variant first took hold.
Additionally, deaths have nearly tripled in the last week, with 27 COVID-related fatalities recorded on Tuesday compared to 10 last Thursday
Fauci said it is important to watch the UK because when the Alpha variant took over Britain by December 2020, it only took one to two months before it became the dominant variant in the U.S.
He believes the same will occur with the Delta variant.
‘We have followed the UK, in so many respects, with regard to the B.1.1.7,’ he said.
‘Look at what’s happened to the UK from February to June…Look at how the Delta [variant] completely began to dominate the isolates throughout the UK.’
Fauci then noted that the U.S. is following the same trend seen in the UK, but that vaccines are effective against the new variant.
Britain recorded more than 11,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday – most since February – and a 450% spike since the 2,000 average recorded in April, when the variant first took hold. It now is linked to more than 99% of cases
States, such as Missouri, have begun tracking the spread of the Delta variant in wastewater and found samples with the strain in least 10 counties (above)
A recent study from Public Health England that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96 percent effective against hospitalization from the Delta variant after two doses and that the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine in 92 percent effective.
‘We have the tools, so let’s use them and crush the outbreak,’ Fauci said.
It comes as experts in some states begin to attempt to track the spread of the variant through wastewater.
Researchers first detected the variant in wastewater from Branson – 250 miles west from St Louis – on May 10.
The following week, the variant was found in wastewater about 200 miles away Brookfield. Both towns have low rates of vaccination.
According to data from the state’s Sewershed Surveillance Project, the Delta variant has since been detected in the wastewater of at least 10 counties.
‘Since about the second week of May, we’ve seen a very large increase in the prevalence of the Delta variant,’ Dr Marc Johnson, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Missouri told NBC News.
‘And the speed at which it spread is quite amazing. It spread really quickly through the state.’
Analysis of wastewater – toilet water that travels through a drainage system to a treatment facility – has been used for years to track a number of public health concerns.
Sewage surveillance is currently used in several countries to monitor poliovirus circulation, including Israel and India. It’s also been used in several cities in Europe to track the spread of opioids.
Researchers have found that infected people shed viruses, or viral genetic material, in their urine and stool.
Scientists believe this surveillance system could provide better estimate of how far the disease is spreading because this would include people who have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
In fact, the virus can be detected in feces within three days of someone being infected, which is before most people show symptoms.
‘It’s just a much more comprehensive way of studying the spread of the virus,’ Johnson told NBC News.
‘When you rely on human testing, you’re relying on people that got tested, have access to health care, and whatnot. Our system will tell you about an entire city without any bias for anything. As long as you use the sewer system, we will detect it.’