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The Lambda Variant: What You Should Know And Why Experts Say Not To Panic

While the delta variant has become the dominant strain in the United States, it's not the only variant circulating.   The lambda variant, first identified in Peru, is also in several states.


According to a database for scientists tracking coronavirus variantsfewer than 700 cases have been sequenced in the U.S. out of more than 34 million coronavirus cases reported to date.

The U.S. has sequenced only a tiny fraction of its cases, so the number does not reflect the actual number of lambda cases in the country.  Fewer than 1% of U.S. cases in the last four weeks have been identified as the lambda variant, according to GISAID, a repository for genome data.


Dr. Stuart Ray, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital - specializing in infectious diseases, tells NPR that lambda is "sort of a cousin of the alpha variant" — one of the earliest identified variants. 


The lambda variant carries a number of mutations with suspected implications, such as potential increased transmissibility or possible increased resistance to neutralizing antibodies, the WHO says.  But it says the full extent of those mutations' impact isn't yet well understood and will need further study and classified it as a global "variant of interest."


Do we need to worry?  Not yet, according to public health officials and experts.  The delta variant, two times as transmissible as the original strain of the coronavirus, accounts for 83% of new coronavirus cases in the United States.  Delta continues to be the central concern for public health officials.



The deadly SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus continues to outsmart science and more transmissible variants are worrying experts.  India reported two cases of the Kappa variant.  Both cases are in Uttar Pradesh.


What Is The Kappa Variant And How Virulent Is It?  The Kappa variant is not new, it’s linked to the B.1.617 constellation of mutations, first detected in India.  It was replaced by the B.1.167.2 or Delta variant, first reported in the country in October.


This variant has been found to carry over a dozen mutations, of which two have been identified - E484Q and L452R, causing it to be referenced as a "double mutant".   Health experts are closely monitoring the L452R mutation as it helps the virus escape the body's natural Immune response.  The Kappa variant has been characterized by the WHO as a Variant of Interest (VOI).



Vaccinated People With Breakthrough Infections Can Spread The Delta Variant, CDC Says

When revising its mask guidance to urge even vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in much of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was criticized for not citing data.   Now it has — and the data is sobering.


The study details a COVID-19 outbreak  involving 469 cases starting July 3 in Provincetown, Mass.  It found that three-quarters of cases occurred in the fully vaccinated.   Massachusetts has a high rate of vaccination, approximately 69%, among eligible adults at the time of the study.  The study suggested the viral load of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons infected with the coronavirus is similar.


A CDC Document Gives New Details On Just How Dangerous The Delta Variant Really Is

The CDC said the finding that fully vaccinated people could spread the virus was behind its move to change its mask guidance.


"High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC's director said.


An internal slide presentation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details just how dangerous the delta variant really is.  Information indicated it could be as contagious as chickenpox, one of the more transmissible viruses, by spreading more easily than the common cold, the 1918 flu and smallpox.  The delta variant likely increases the risk of severe disease and hospitalization, compared with the original strain.


While most new infections are still occurring among unvaccinated people, the CDC estimates that 35,000 fully vaccinated Americans — out of more than 162 million — may get infected with the coronavirus every week.


CDC Urges Vaccinated People To Mask Up Indoors In Places With High Virus Transmission

The good news vaccines continue to be highly effective against the virus in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19.  Alex Morse, town manager of Provincetown indicated cases linked to the cluster.  "There have been no deaths, 7 hospitalizations and symptoms are largely mild."


Data from a July 4 outbreak on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, appears to have led CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to recommend fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in public spaces if they live in areas where the spread of the virus is currently "substantial" or "high."


U.S. COVID Deaths Are Rising Again. Experts Call It A 'Pandemic Of The Unvaccinated.'

The death rate from COVID-19 in the U.S. is rising steadily for the first time in months as the nation grapples with a renewed burst of that has become "a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC's director said Friday.  "Our biggest concern is we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and sadly deaths among the unvaccinated."


The seven-day average of new cases has increased by nearly 70% to almost 30,000 per day; hospitalizations are up 36%.  And deaths from the virus have risen steadily in recent days, reversing a months-long downward trend that began in mid-January.


Early data shows that the COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca provided “minimal” protection from that version of the coronavirus.  The B.1.351 variant has not been shown to cause more severe illness than earlier versions, but there is a chance it could give people who survived the original coronavirus another round of mild or moderate COVID-19.


Researchers studying the South African COVID-19 vaccine trial by Novavax compared subgroups of participants who did or did not have antibodies indicating prior COVID-19.  Those who did have the antibodies most likely were infected with older variants of SARS-CoV-2.  They found that having recovered from COVID-19 did not protect against being sickened again at a time when the B.1.351 variant was spreading there.

COVID Cases In Parts Of Missouri And Arkansas Surge To Levels Not Seen Since Winter

The upward trend in national statistics is being driven almost entirely by outbreaks in places with low vaccination rates, such as the Ozarks, Florida and parts of the Mountain West.  Some counties, especially in Missouri and Arkansas, are recording more cases now than they did during the winter.


"Unvaccinated Americans account for virtually all recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths," said Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator. "Each COVID-19 death is more tragic because they are preventable."


About 56% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, but in many counties, especially in rural America, the number is under 20% despite the availability of the vaccine.  Officials said the low rate has created environments where the virus can spread relatively unimpeded.  Though the number of daily vaccinations nationwide continues to decline, the states currently hardest hit by the virus — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada — all had higher rates of people seeking the vaccine than the national average. 


The more people infected, the more chances there are for a mutation to occur.  Limiting the spread of the virus by maintaining COVID-19 safeguards - mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, good ventilation indoors and limiting gatherings of people in close proximity - gives the virus fewer chances to change and reduces the spread of more infectious variants, if they do occur.  We give the virus an advantage to evolve when we congregate in more confined spaces with poor ventilation.


How Effective Are Vaccines Against The Variants?  In a recent study, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) stated Covaxin was effective for Kappa, as well as the Beta and Delta variants of coronavirus.  The United States' National Institute of Health (NIH) also stated that Covaxin effectively neutralized both Alpha and Delta variants of coronavirus.


Oxford University, published in the journal CellAstraZeneca was effective against Delta and Kappa variants of COVID-19.  In India, AstraZeneca vaccine is used as Covishield.


Despite New COVID Variants, CDC Says You Don't Need Any Booster Doses Right Now

As new coronavirus variants test the protections of the available vaccines, federal health officials say there's no need for booster doses right now.  "Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time," read a joint statement sent Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.


This has aroused concern about possible immune escape, which could compromise vaccine efficacy and increase the risk of reinfection.  This variant contains three spike mutations that are major targets for neutralizing antibodies:


  • L452R - is located in the receptor-binding motif,
  • W152C - in the N-terminal domain supersite.
  • E484Q - enables the virus to escape monoclonal antibodies 5


The agencies added that people who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe illness and death, including from emerging variants such as the highly contagious delta variant that's now the dominant strain in the U.S. and in other countries.


“People who have received vaccinations should watch for changes in guidance from the CDC and continue with coronavirus safety precautions to reduce the risk of infection, such as mask wearing, physical distancing and hand hygiene.”


Fauci Says Current Vaccines Will Stand Up To The Delta Variant The news comes shortly after Pfizer and BioNTech announced plans to seek FDA authorization for a booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine.


According to Pfizer and BioNTech, initial trial results from ongoing booster trials indicate a third shot given six months after the initial two shots can bring antibody levels to a point potentially increasing protection against disease caused by either strain of the coronavirus.  Pfizer and BioNTech are also developing a new version of their vaccine designed specifically to target the delta variant, which they hope to start testing this summer.


Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Is Linked To Neurological Disorder In Extremely Rare Cases.

The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine has been linked to an extremely rare neurological disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   There are only 100 reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome out of 12 million vaccine doses administered in the U.S.


Guillain-Barré can cause numbness in the extremities and lead to full-body paralysis in the most severe cases, but most people recover.  The CDC indicated of the 100 cases, most were men age 50 or older, developing the syndrome two weeks after getting vaccinated,


In a statementJohnson & Johnson reiterated that the chances of those who get the vaccine developing Guillain-Barré is "very low.  The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority."


A Woman Died Of COVID After Contracting 2 Variants At The Same Time, Researchers Say.

A 90-year-old Belgian woman came to the hospital because she was repeatedly falling.  Her breathing fine, blood oxygen levels were good, but tests showed she had COVID-19.  She had two variants, alpha - detected first in the U.K. and beta – found in South Africa, of the coronavirus, according to a paper presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.


The woman was probably infected by two separate people.  "Both variants were circulating in Belgium at the time, said Anne Vankeerberghen of the OLV Hospital in Aalst, Belgium.  The woman lived alone in her home, where she received nursing care before falling ill.  Her previous medical history contained no red flags.  She died at the hospital five days after her respiratory system rapidly deteriorated.  While the case is being seen as the first confirmed instance of a double infection, indicated Vankeerberghen.   


LA County Public Health Director Reports A Rise In Cases Among Black Residents.

Black residents of Los Angeles County are dealing with a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations shortly after California reopened its economy and the highly contagious Delta variant became the dominant strain in the U.S.


Dr. Barbara Ferrer, LA County's public health director, tells NPR that the case incident rate for Black residents went from 39 cases per 100,000 people to 46 cases per 100,000 people.  Ferrer says there was a significant but smaller increase in hospitalizations:  from 8.4 hospitalizations per 100,000 Black residents to 9.3 hospitalizations per 100,000 Black residents.  99% of people who are positive, hospitalized or passing away in LA County, are people who are unvaccinated."


Vaccination rates are lower in the Black and Latinx communities, particularly younger people, many are essential workers or unable to telework.  Dr. Ferrer says that most aren't generally against vaccines.  "They just have a lot of questions about these vaccines and feel like they haven't gotten the answers yet that they're looking for," she says.


Gen Z Is Feeling 'Meh' About The Vaccine.  The White House Is Calling In The Pop Stars.

"Health misinformation has cost us lives," said Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general.  Administration officials view misinformation as a major obstacle to reaching vaccination goals.  Conspiracy theories and lies about coronavirus vaccines have proliferated among right-wing media and on social media sites such as Facebook, where posts with bad information about vaccine safety spread faster than administrators can remove them.

The White House has ramped up efforts in recent weeks to convince more young people to get vaccinated.  Wednesday, pop star Olivia Rodrigo visited the White House to record public service announcements and Dr. Fauci has begun doing interviews on TikTok.


Could a new COVID-19 variant affect children more frequently than earlier strains?

Experts in areas where the new strain is appearing have found an increased number of cases in children.  Kids are being infected by old variants, as well as the new ones.  There needs to be vigilant in monitoring shifts.


Pediatrics group says kids should wear masks at school.  The American Academy of Pediatrics issued recommendations for the 2021-22 school year that includes everyone older than age 2 wearing masks, regardless of vaccination status.  The academy also "strongly recommends" in-person learning and urges all who are eligible be vaccinated to protect against COVID-19.  The AAP said it amplifies the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for building ventilation, testing, quarantining, cleaning and disinfection in the updated guidance.


How to Protect Yourself?  Getting vaccinated is your best bet!




Stay safe.  Mask.  Social distance.  Frequent hand washing.  Avoid crowds.







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