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Delta Variant and Delta Plus: Similarities and Differences

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The highly contagious delta coronavirus variant currently makes up over 80% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. It was first detected in India and is considered more dangerous due to its higher transmission rates.

Now, another novel strain of coronavirus called the delta plus variant has been identified in at least 11 countries globally, including the U.S. It was first declared “a variant of concern” in England on June 11, 2021.

What Do We Know About the Delta Plus Variant?

While we don’t know a lot about delta plus at this stage, we’re learning more every day, including that it:

  • Binds to lung cell receptors easily
  • Causes similar symptoms as the delta variant
  • Doesn’t appear to be common
  • May cause a possible reduced response to monoclonal antibody treatments
  • Spreads quickly and easily

How Is Delta Plus Different?

The delta plus variant is a mutation of the current delta variant’s spike protein that binds to a cell’s receptors and allows it to enter. This is how it might make it easier to transmit than the current delta variant.

There’s also concern that delta plus might spread among people who already had the virus or haven’t completed their vaccines.

What Does the Name Delta Plus Mean?

Just hearing the name delta plus might trigger alarm bells for many people, thinking that it’s somehow an “upgraded,” or worse version of the delta variant. Its name indicates its mutation from the delta variant strain. But so far, it doesn’t seem to be spreading at a rate to cause concern in the U.S.

Will the Current Vaccines Protect Against Delta Plus?

While we don’t have enough data to show how much protection the COVID-19 vaccines offer against the delta plus variant, we know they’ve been shown to prevent hospitalization and severe illness from its sister delta variant.

All of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S. use the spike protein to trigger the body’s immune response. Then, the body creates antibodies that recognize the spiked protein, so if the virus ever enters the body, it will target it effectively.

Should I Be More Worried About the Delta Plus Variant?

While all variants of COVID-19 are causes for concern, there isn’t currently an indication that delta plus is significantly more dangerous than others. Continue to protect yourself by getting vaccinated, wearing a face mask — especially indoors in public in COVID-19 hot spots, like Florida — washing your hands frequently and practicing social distancing.

The Bottom Line on the Delta Plus Variant

The key difference between the delta variant and delta plus is the mutation of the spiked protein, which may make it easier to transmit. However, as we continue to learn more, the bottom line remains the same: getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from current and emerging coronavirus variants.

For more information on COVID-19, the delta variant and virus FAQs, check out our Coronavirus Resource Hub. For all the vaccine-related updates and answers you need, visit our Coronavirus Vaccine Resource Hub.

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