Delta Plus COVID Variant Sparks Fear Across Social Media

A number of social media users in the U.S. have expressed their concerns about the Delta Plus COVID-19 variant after two new cases were confirmed in South Korea.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) told Reuters that the country's first case of the Delta Plus variant, also known as B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1, was identified in a man in 40s who had "no recent travel records."

Park Young-joon, a KDCA official, told a press conference that testing of around 280 people who were in contact with the man found that only his son also tested positive for COVID, although it is unclear if the son has the Delta Plus variant too.

The second case was found in a traveler who returned from the U.S, and had received both shots of AstraZeneca before the trip, Park said.

A number of people on Twitter have now expressed their concerns, as well as making jokes and sharing memes, after hearing of reports of the Delta Plus variant on top of the other strains currently spreading through the U.S. and the rest of the world.

"Gonna be honest. I'm not doing indoor dining or gyms in NYC even if they're restricted to vaccinated people," tweeted author Crystal M. Fleming. "Not with Delta Comfort Plus out here propagating and breakthrough cases surging."

Wajahat Ali, a columnist for the Daily Beast and Senior Fellow at the Western States Center and Auburn Seminary, added: "It seems more likely we will again homeschool our kids.

"Fall semester starts up in 3 weeks and I am absolutely not comfortable considering the spread of Delta, now Delta Plus, and how people are being way too cavalier about this virus. If only enough masked, vaccinated & cared."

Actress and comedian Natasha Chandel wrote: "The never-ending saga that is COVID-19 continues... A big mistake we keep making is in always being reactive, instead of preparing in advance. We should be preparing for this—Delta plus and Lambda."

There are fears the Delta Plus variant, first identified in March, could be more transmissible than the Delta variant, although Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium said worldwide trends suggest this is not the case.

In a statement to Reuters in June, the World Health Organization said: "For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences ... Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission."

The "plus" of the variant's name refers to its K417N spike protein mutation, which was also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa

A number of countries have reported cases of the Delta Plus variant, including Britain, Portugal, Japan and the U.S.

In June, the first death associated with the Delta Plus variant was documented in Madhya Pradesh in central India, reported NDTV. The patient was not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The CDC currently lists Delta Plus as a "variant of concern," meaning there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility and more severe symptoms.

Speaking to The Washington Post, Colin Angus, a public health policy modeler and analyst in England, said there are no indications that the Delta Plus variant will overtake Delta as the prominent strain.

"To date, there is no clear evidence that it conveys enough of a benefit to the virus to allow it to dominate the original delta variant," he said. "So although it is clearly here, there is no obvious sign that it has gained a foothold over existing variants of the virus.

Angus said it still appears that getting vaccinated will protect people from the Delta Plus variant.

"We need more evidence to get a clear picture about any possible advantage against vaccines that Delta Plus may have, but the fact that we haven't seen it clearly outcompete Delta despite having been found in several countries with high vaccination rates, suggests that any advantage can only be very small," he said.

delta plus variant
(File photo) Health workers dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE) handle a coronavirus test at a drive-thru testing station at Cummings Park on March 23, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. Social media users in the U.S. have expressed their concerns about the Delta Plus COVID-19 variant after two new cases were confirmed in South Korea. John Moore/Getty Images