COLUMBUS (WCMH) — With health experts sending warnings about COVID-19’s “Delta” variant, another new variant to the south is already on their radar as well.
World Health Officials have signaled the “Lambda” variant as the latest version of the virus, and though it hasn’t been categorized it as a “variant of concern” yet, that could change as experts learn more.
“Tentatively speaking, it appears the Lambda variant is covered quite nicely by our current vaccines,” encourages OhioHealth’s Dr. Joseph Gastaldo.
COVID-19’s super-spreader, Delta variant still remains the dominant strain in the United States, but the newest version of the virus is popping up increasingly around the globe.
“With so much infection happening worldwide, it should surprise nobody that we are going to continue to have further evolution of this virus into variants,” Dr. Gastaldo warns.
According to the World Health Organization, 81% of the COVID-19 cases reported in Peru since April were associated with the Lambda variant.
The newest version of the virus taking over fellow South American countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador as well.
“We really don’t know yet too much about how the Lambda variant behaves. The Lambda variant is thought to be more transmissible,” says Dr. Gastaldo.
It’s also thought to be more effective at fighting off current therapies used to treat symptomatic COVID-19 patients.
But with more people looking to get away as travel restrictions ease, South America remains on the do not travel advisory. Meaning more trips to places like Mexico, and the Caribbean.
“[ I ] received one request to go to Peru. Once we discussed the situations, they felt it was best to lay back and hold off on that trip,” admits Brian McGee, a Travel Agent with Uniglobe Travel Designers. “The regulations change constantly. You know, the recommendations change. It’s a 24-hour job right now, it really is.”
Health experts say with more COVID-19 variants forming, genetic sequencing — the process used to identify a particular strain — efforts are increasing.
“The lambda variant is not the last variant,” Dr. Gastaldo reaffirms.
With those experts warning the vaccine, for now, is still our best defense.
“That’s the canary in the coal mine for vaccines not working anymore. If all the sudden we get a bunch of breakthrough infections ending up in the hospital,” warns Dr. Gastaldo.
Dr. Gastaldo adds that while we know the vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalizations or deaths in those breakthrough cases, what we don’t know is the level of protection from asymptomatic infection from those fully vaccinated.
The Lambda variant has so far been identified in 26 countries already, including here in the United States.