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Will there be more variants like the Delta variant?

GEHA | September 1, 2021

COVID-19 Health and wellness
Written by: Michael Shusko, MD, MPH, FAAFP, FACOEM, FACPM, Medical Director

Dr. Shusko, MD, MPH, FAAFP, FACOEM, FACPM, Medical Director, is a Family Medicine, Occupational Medicine and Preventive Medicine physician. He recently retired from the Navy after 35 years and is a Medical Director at GEHA, focusing on Prevention and Wellness.

A) The short answer: yes, there will be more variants. Delta was not the first variant, and it will not be the last. The severity or impact of any variant is hard to predict—some variants spread more easily than others.

Here’s why: A variant is the term given to an organism to describe the mutations that occur during its life cycle, producing changes to the organism. The longer a pandemic goes on or the more extensive the spread of the disease across the population, the greater the chance of the introduction of different variants. Because the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still spreading worldwide, we can expect it to continue to mutate.

There have already been numerous mutations of the virus—the organism that produces disease in COVID-19—that have led to a number of variants during this pandemic. These variants are being monitored, cataloged, and studied. Some variants, like the ones you have likely seen in the news, can spread more easily which can lead to more cases of COVID-19. This is why the Delta variant is so concerning.

Currently, there are four major COVID-19 variants that are of concern in the US:

  • Alpha (B.1.1.7)
  • Beta (B.1.351)
  • Delta (B.1.617.2)
  • Gamma (P.1)
Undoubtedly, as the pandemic continues and the number of cases rise, especially in the unvaccinated population, it is likely that other variants will be discovered. Only a small portion of people who are fully vaccinated have been reported to have been infected with the Delta variant. The best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent infection from Delta or other variants is to get vaccinated.