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What is the new coronavirus Delta variant, and should Americans be worried?

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted andthe pace of vaccinations has slowed in the U.S., the rise of a new coronavirus variant worries some health experts. The variant, known as the Delta or B.1.617.2 , was first detected in India and has spread to more than 60 countries. In the United Kingdom, it accounts for about 60% of coronavirus cases.

New coronavirus Delta variant shows severe symptoms, concerns experts

In the U.S., it currently accounts for 6% of infections, though in some states it accounts for over 18% of sampled coronavirus cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So what is it about the Delta variant that has health experts worried? USA TODAY spoke to two experts for their take.

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What are the Delta variant symptoms?

Dr. Bhakti Hansoti is an associate professor of emergency medicine and international health at Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg School of Public Health. Hansoti said Delta variant infections in India and the U.S. come with all the samesymptoms of the original Sars-CoV-2 virus, just more severe.

Hansoti said doctors have seen an increased likelihood of hearing loss, severe stomach pains and nausea in patients infected with the new variant. In most cases, patients are more likely to be hospitalized, require oxygen treatments and endure other complications.

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Should vaccinated Americans be worried?

No, if you received your second dose.

A new study from Public Health England showed two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant, and even more successful at preventing hospitalization and death. The study, however, found one dose of the Pfizer vaccine was only 33% protective.

“So without that (second dose) it still leaves them very vulnerable [to sickness] and this variant is highly transmissible,” Hansoti told USA TODAY.

Jonathan Baktari, CEO of e7 Health a health care and wellness company, said the Delta variant is a testament to why it’s important to get both doses of the vaccine.

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How do variants form?

The CDC says coronavirus variants are the result of changes to the virus’ genes. Every time a virus replicates, mutations naturally occur in its genetic material. The CDC lists a total of nine common variants it’s monitoring.

Why are health experts concerned?

Baktari said the biggest threat with the Delta variant is its ability to infect easily and quickly. He compared it to a sticky object — if one infected person is in a room and talks or sneezes, it will easier stick to another person.

“The aerosol will release the virus and the virus has an easier time sticking to its next victim as it were,” Baktari said.

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