Delta variant

WHO Calls Delta ‘Fittest' COVID-19 Strain – Can It Set Roots in San Diego?

San Diego County has seen four documented cases of the Delta variant, but experts expect the highly contagious strain to rear its head

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While California’s reopening in many ways might feel like the end to the pandemic, health experts are warning everyone that the fight isn't over yet.

The World Health Organization warned Monday that the highly contagious Delta variant is the "fastest and fittest strain yet," and said they're worried it will "pick-off" the most vulnerable people.

The Delta variant of the coronavirus accounts for 10% of new U.S. cases and is known to spread more easily and cause more severe disease.

Though San Diego County data shows there have only been four cases of the Delta variant locally, health experts say they expect to find more.

The fast-growing strain, first identified in India, has recently accounted for as much as 10% percent of U.S. cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Of the four documented cases involving the Delta variant in San Diego County, one woman was hospitalized and later discharged and three other people infected weren't hospitalized. Fortunately, there've been no deaths, say county officials.

The possibility of catching the variant is one of the reasons people like Alyssa Dawson stroll through Little Italy with a mask on, despite being vaccinated and the mandate being lifted.

"It’s still something I’m thinking through and recognizing," she said. "I'm still around folks who haven't been vaccinated, who can't get access."

To get better perspective on the variant's possible impact on San Diego, we talked to Dr. David Pride, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego. He’s helping to develop a COVID test for people in India.

He worries about the vulnerable people in San Diego and across the country who aren't getting vaccinated.

“The less that we get vaccinated and the more of the virus that continues to mutate in our population, the more likely it becomes -- that we'll eventually come upon a variant that can get around the immunity from the vaccinations," Pride explained.

Studies suggest the Delta variant is 60% more contagious than the U.K. variant.

For now, county records show there are more cases of other variants in San Diego than the Delta strain, but some residents are keeping masks on just in case. County health experts in Los Angeles are also concerned about the Delta variant's slow but steady rise there.

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