Highly transmissible strain of COVID-19 spreading in Wash. state, researchers say
Researchers study COVID strains at UW Medicine's virology lab. (Photo: UW Medicine){ }

SEATTLE (KOMO) — The delta variant of COVID-19, a highly transmissible strain of the disease, is making inroads into Washington state, say researchers with the UW Medicine's virology lab.

The lab has discovered at least 170 cases of the delta variant in Washington so far, and researchers are closely tracking that variant and how it spreads.

Highly transmissible strain of COVID-19 spreading in Wash. state (KOMO News Video - Denise Whitaker)

The delta variant, first detected in India, is believed to be between 40% and 80% more transmissible than the previous dominant strain, scientists say. It has caused waves of new cases in Sweden, China and Great Britain, where it may force the government to delay a full reopening of the economy.

"It has been shown to be associated with increased transmissibility in the U.K.," says Dr .Pavitra Roychoudhury with UW Medicine's Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology. "It has actually overtaken the alpha variant, B 1.1.7, and so it's something that we're really concerned about when we're watching those numbers over time.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the delta variant is responsible for about 10% of cases in the U.S. so far, compared with 69% of the alpha strain.

Roychoudhury says even though researchers are concerned about the delta variant, it's important to remember that the vaccines work well against it. She said the vaccines currently in use work well to prevent severe symptoms among any of the variants they're tracking.

Scientists also have learned the different sensitivities to each of the variants they're sequencing, and even though there may be a reduced immune response to some, the UW lab says that the vaccines still lower the probability of getting infected.

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