Delta-Plus variant found in New Orleans area as concern grows in states with low vaccination rates

Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Doctors have identified a new COVID-19 variant in the New Orleans area called Delta-Plus, a troubling off-shoot of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Delta-Plus is doubly infectious, like the Delta variant. What’s different is that it’s harder for antibodies to block.

“If somebody has had one of the older models, if you will, of COVID-19, they are not going to be very well protected against this variant,” Dr. Lucio Miele said.

That also includes the effectiveness of antibody treatments according to Dr. Miele, who’s LSU Health Precision Medicine Lab helped identify this case in a partnership with Ochsner and the State Health Department.

He says being vaccinated is the only protection. Symptoms are worse than the original strain for the unvaccinated.

“Vaccination, while it does prevent serious illness, may not be able to prevent transmission,” Miele said.

He means fully vaccinated, too.

“If a virus happens to be in a person that’s not completely protected, it’s going to stay in that person for a longer time and that gives you the opportunity to hit the jackpot, to find a mutation that is partially resistant to immunity,” Miele said.

Miele says that’s what happened with the four “variants of concern”, Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.

It’s the rapid spread of the Delta variant in recent weeks that has health officials worried.

In Arkansas, only 34% of residents are fully protected, one of the lowest rates in the country, and cases as well as hospitalizations, especially in the young and unvaccinated, are rising. Mississippi, with 29%, comes in last place. Louisiana is sitting around 35%.

Researchers say states with low vaccination rates are seeing infection rates three times higher on average and 99.2-percent of recent COVID deaths are unvaccinated people.

Miele says testing has dropped dramatically and that’s what we need to be doing to identify and keep up with these variants. He encourages anyone who is unvaccinated and feeling even the slightest bit sick to go get tested, on top of getting vaccinated, if possible.

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