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Graphics: Andrii Vodolazhskyi (Shutterstock)

Delta Plus, a variant of a variant, is the latest strain of the COVID-causing coronavirus to hit the news. (A previously known variant, Lambda, is also making headlines today.) However, there is no longer any reason to panic: Delta is scary enough.

What is the difference between Delta and Delta Plus?

Delta is the most transmissible strain of the coronavirus, which is rapidly becoming the dominant strain around the world. It is as contagious as chickenpox and far more contagious than common colds or flu. Because it’s so contagious, measures enough to slow the spread of the original strain of COVID don’t seem enough to stop Delta. More people need to be vaccinated to defeat a more contagious virus, so masks and other safety measures need to be used more carefully.

Delta Plus is the nickname of a Delta variant with an additional mutation. This mutation was also found in the alpha variant, which spread earlier this year. according to the Washington Post. Reuters reported in June that this new mutation could make it more difficult for our immune system to track down and destroy the virus.

we don’t yet know if vaccines are less effective against Delta Plus than against Delta. We know that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine is less effective against Delta than against the original COVID virus, but that a double dose is still protective.

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Okay what is lambda?

Lambda is still categorized Classified as “interesting variant” by the World Health Organization, less worrying than “worrying variants” such as Delta.

It seems to be on the news this week for riding the skirt laps of the Delta Plus panic, but there’s nothing new or unusually worrying about. A recent study showed that a Chinese vaccine (Sinovac / CoronaVac) may not protect against this very well, but that the same vaccine is already less effective against some variants than the vaccines currently available in the USA

Why do we keep hearing about new variations?

As long as vaccination rates are still low, the virus has plenty of room to live and grow, to reproduce and develop – every unvaccinated person is a potential home and playground for the virus. (Most people who are vaccinated are initially immune to the virus.)

If we had managed to contain COVID-19 with masks and distancing in early 2020, it may not have had enough time or opportunity to expand into all of these flavors. If we had managed to get more people vaccinated faster – around the world, not just in the US – the virus would have had fewer opportunities to develop.

But the nature of evolution is that the more successful variants tend to crowd out their less communicable cousins. When Alpha got going, it took over and became the dominant variant; now Delta is doing the same. And as long as we give the virus many people to multiply and opportunities to travel from person to person, this will continue to happen.

Vaccination is still our best bet Build population immunity to the virus, but other measures such as masking and avoiding crowds indoors are also important. The vaccine is likely to offer more robust, longer-lasting immunity than the kind you get after surviving a COVID attack yourself, which makes getting your syringe extra important.