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'I do think it's worth watching' | Infectious disease expert on what you need to know about COVID-19 Delta variant

The variant originated in India, and accounts for about 10% of coronavirus cases in our country.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A new COVID-19 variant is on the rise - both in the United States and globally: the Delta variant. The mutation of the virus originated in India, and accounts for about 10% of coronavirus cases in our country. 

Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert with Wake Forest Baptist Health, spoke with WFMY News 2 about what you need to know about this variant. 

"So variants are simply where a virus has had a few mutations in certain areas of the spike proteins that affect how the virus interacts with our cells, particularly our cells in the respiratory tract," he said, "The concern is that if you have a variant that has enough changes in its face characteristics so to speak, that it might cause more severe disease, or evade the vaccines more.

"[The Delta] variant has a few mutations in the spike proteins that do seem to increase transmissibility, perhaps a bit more than the UK variant. It's a little bit unclear whether it's a more severe virus or not."

Dr. Ohl said while he doesn't believe there will be another massive COVID-19 surge or wave, the Delta variant will slow the progress of getting completely out of the pandemic.

"Am I losing a ton of sleep over it? No," he said, "But, I do think it's worth watching, and I think that is going to make it a little harder for the unvaccinated populations."

Whether it's this variant, or any other, Dr. Ohl explained that the virus will find its way, spreading through unvaccinated people globally.

"As long as there are substantial numbers of cases of COVID and transmission occurring anywhere in the world, these variants are going to pop up. There's international travel. It's going to get around. There's no country that is going to be an island from it."

Even if you've already had coronavirus this year or last, Dr. Ohl said the vaccine is still you best form of protection against this variant. He noted, too, that nearly all COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Wake Forest Baptist Health were unvaccinated.

"It's just a good reason to add on to our other reasons to get a vaccine right now," he said.