The variant, which was first identified in India and is known as B.1.617.2, currently makes up about 10 percent of all COVID-19 infections in America, up from six percent last week.
Despite evidence that it is highly transmissible as it ravages the UK, the CDC continues to call the mutant simply a ‘variant of interest,’ which means it is only ‘suspected’ to be more contagious rather than confirmed to be so.
The variant makes up more than 90 percent of cases in England and has led to an increase in hospitalization and deaths, causing fears that the same could occur in the US.
It comes as former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb warned that the proportion of cases linked to the Delta variant is doubling every two weeks and that he expects it is on its way in the U.S. to becoming the dominant strain – and could lead to a future epidemic.
The Delta variant, which first originated in India, currently makes up about 10% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
Despite the strain’s continued spread CDC has still not classified it as a ‘variant of concern’ and merely refers to it as a ‘variant of interest’
Former FDA commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb warned on Sunday (above) that Delta is likely to become dominant in the U.S. and warned of a potential epidemic in the fall
‘Right now, in the United States, [the Delta variant makes up] about 10 percent of infections. It’s doubling every two weeks,’ Gottlieb told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday.
‘That doesn’t mean that we’re going to see a sharp uptick in infections, but it does mean that this is going to take over.
‘And I think the risk is really to the fall that this could spike a new epidemic heading into the fall.’
India’s Ministry of Health has labeled the variant a ‘double mutant’ 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.
The variant was first discovered in the Maharashtra state, which is the second most-populous state in India and where Mumbai is located.
Cases has been plummeting since September, but began spiking in March with a 50 percent increase in cases in the first week of April alone.
It was due to sequencing such a high number of cases that the county’s Health Ministry was able to identify the variant.
In a statement, officials said the variant was linked to between 15 to 20 percent of samples sequenced from Maharashtra state.
Gottlieb said that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines appear to be 88 percent effective against the Delta variant and the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines about 60 percent effective.
He said he is worried about the specific states and regions of the U.S. where they are low rates of vaccination.
In the UK, the variant now makes up 90% of cases, and nearly one-third of the 42 Britons who have died from the mutant had received two vaccine doses
As of Monday, 64.4 percent of US adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But at least five states – Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennesee and Wyoming – have immunized less than half of all over-18s.
‘I think in parts of the country where you have less vaccination – particularly in parts of the South, where you have some cities where vaccination rates are low – there’s a risk that you could see outbreaks with this new variant,’ Gottlieb said.
‘We have the tools to control this and defeat it. We just need to use those tools.’
However, health experts have warned people to remain vigilant as a new report from Public Health England (PHE) found that the Delta variant has over taken the Alpha variant, which originated the UK, as the dominant variant.
The PHE report found that than 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in the UK are now the Delta variant.
Nearly one-third of patients confirmed to have the variant visiting the hospital emergency room has least one vaccine dose.
What’s more, of the 42 Britons who have died from the strain thus far, 45 percent had received at lest one dose and 29 percent were fully vaccinated.
Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists tweeted on Monday that part of the reason for the rise in the UK is due to the country’s plan to separate two-dose vaccines by 12 weeks compared to the traditional three or four weeks.
‘The #DeltaVariant is truly a scourge. We saw what it did to India, and now we are seeing another wave in [UK] and hospitalizations increasing there, and #DeltaVariant rising in the US as well,’ he wrote.
‘The #DeltaVariant is what keeps me awake at night. It will blow up any country’s 1-dose vaccine sparing plan…because [one] dose isn’t enough. “EVERYONE 12+” needs to be fully [two] dose vaccinated.