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Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading faster than experts thought

"The delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci.

CLEVELAND — There are more warnings about the Delta variant that is spreading faster than experts thought. 

"The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said at a White House briefing on the virus. “Good news: Our vaccines are effective against the delta variant.”

He added: “We have the tools. So let’s use them, and crush the outbreak.”

This mutation of COVID-19 is not only spreading faster, but health officials say it's also causing more severe disease than the other circulating mutations.

There are four variants health officials are watching. The most recent Delta variant is known as a double mutant because it has two significant changes found in other variants. One makes it spread easier and turned Delta into a speed demon.

"In the last two weeks the prevalence of cases resulting from the delta variant has doubled to just over 20 percent," says CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

The other change is more concerning, becauase it makes it easier for the variant to infect people who've already had COVID-19. In Israel, where about 60 percent of citizens are fully vaccinated, they saw COVID cases plummet a couple weeks ago. Now they're seeing a surge and 70 percent of cases are the Delta variant. Half of the cases are children.

"In the last week since the Delta variant hit in Israel there's been a huge rush to get 12 to 15 year olds vaccinated because of how sick they're getting," says Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital infectious disease specialist, Dr. Amy Edwards.

For the unvaccinated, the risk of severe illness is greater with the Delta variant.

"We know our vaccines work against this variant, however this variant represents a set of mutations that could lead to future mutations that evade our vaccine. And that's why it's more important than ever to get vaccinated now to stop the chain of infection, the chain of mutations that could lead to a more dangerous variant," Dr. Walensky said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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