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VERIFY: Delta variant is more transmissible, but not enough data to prove it’s more deadly

Delta is the dominant COVID-19 variant worldwide, but is it really more dangerous than the others?

SEATTLE — The delta variant is the dominant COVID-19 strain worldwide, but is it deadlier than the other variants? The delta variant is often called “highly transmissible” and “more-deadly,” but is that true?

To verify, we compiled studies out of China, India, Scotland and consulted with Dr. Larry Corey, who is coordinating all of the COVID-19 vaccine research in the U.S.

Corey told KING 5 the "delta [variant] appears to be more infectious than its previous cousins and sisters.” However, there is currently not enough data to prove the delta variant is more deadly than previous versions of the virus.

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A recent study from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed the viral load of the delta variant was about 1,000 times higher than the initial strains of the coronavirus.

But just because the viral load is higher does not mean it is more harmful.

"There's no evidence that it's more deadly,” said Corey. “There is evidence that it's more infectious and more infectious to others, i.e., more transmissible. But [is it] actually more severe? There's really not good hard evidence of that."

A study by scientists in Scotland found that hospitalizations were doubled when comparing the delta variant to the alpha. A study of hamsters in India showed it took less of the delta variant to infect the animals than other variants of the virus.

But humans do not always respond the same as rodents. And while the Scottish study was peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal, many of these studies are not. The hamster study in India literally comes with an asterisk emphasizing it should “not be reported as conclusive.”

In the end, there is not enough evidence to verify that the delta variant is any more deadly than its predecessors. However, there is plenty of data that proves getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from the virus.

As Corey, Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and many other health officials have said: 99.5% of the people now dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

"The data about the vaccines preventing hospitalizations and death are very good,” said Corey. “The RNA vaccines and the [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine will prevent hospitalization and death from the delta variant.”