by Max Darrow

MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX) — As the Delta variant of the coronavirus fuels an ongoing COVID wave, Bay Area health experts are keeping a close eye on yet another variant: Delta Plus.

“We believe that it’s at least as bad as Delta,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California San Francisco.

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“We don’t know if it’s even worse than Delta yet. When I say worse we think about number one: is it more transmissible? Number two, does it evade vaccines? And, number three, does it make you sicker?”

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has detected 46 cases of the Delta Plus mutation, according to their latest statistics. It is not the dominant strain in the area, however.

Santa Clara County provided KPIX with the following statement: “The County of Santa Clara is currently tracking the Delta variant, and the “Delta plus” variants on our dashboard. Cases of Delta-plus exist statewide and nationwide and there is currently not enough information on these particular variants to indicate whether they may be more concerning than the original Delta variant.”

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“Having additional variants is going to be expected with any virus,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, professor of Global Health & Infectious Diseases at Stanford University School of Medicine. “The fact there’s a Delta plus doesn’t mean this is going to be any better or worse. At this point, we just don’t know.”

Both doctors expect more mutations will continue to arise until vaccination rates increase.

“Delta-plus is not the end of the story. Until more of us get vaccinated we’re going to have these reports of weird other Greek letters and combinations of Greek letters — we might even run out of the Greek alphabet,” Dr. Chin-Hong said. “It sounds like a broken record but we’re going to see these things pop up until more of us are vaccinated to kick them out of our communities.”

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“What we can do is get vaccinated and keep ourselves from getting infected. That’s how we stop these viruses from mutating,” Dr. Maldonado said. “We have to just keep these viruses from transmitting so that we will reduce the risk of developing the next variant that could be worse than Delta and we don’t know if Delta-plus is that virus.”