The Delta variant of the coronavirus, which was first detected in India, now accounts for nearly 10% of new cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This variant is highly contagious and may be associated with a higher risk of hospitalization than its predecessor strains, according to experts.
The CDC classified it as a “variant of concern,” a designation awarded when there is increased evidence for factors such as transmissibility or severity or reduced efficacy of vaccines or treatments.
According to experts, the symptoms of this variant are more severe than those of previous variants of COVID-19 and specifically it is linked to gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite, as well as hearing loss, gangrene and clotting blood, according to the Times of India and other local media.
The change in classification “is based on growing evidence that the Delta variant spreads more easily and causes more severe cases compared to other variants, including B.1.1.7 (Alpha),” the CDC reported in a statement to NBC News. The alpha variant was first detected in the UK and, in April, it became the dominant strain in the US.
Vaccines available in the US are effective against the delta variant, as well as against other circulating variants. Two doses are required for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one.
Doctors in India say that the prevalence of digestive problems and other symptoms as a result of the Delta variant appear to be higher than those caused by the original strain of COVID-19. However, more clinical research is needed to confirm the link.