The first confirmed case of the Delta-plus coronavirus variant in Louisiana was discovered this week after Ochsner researchers sequenced a batch of COVID-19 samples collected in early June from New Orleans.

Delta-plus is thought to share the same highly transmissible qualities as the standard Delta variant while being even less easily neutralized by antibodies. Ochsner Health Research Scientist Amy Feehan warned this new variant, along with the already prevalent Delta variant, poses serious health risks to those who are not vaccinated.

“I think if you are unvaccinated you should be very worried,” said Feehan. “If you are unvaccinated it’s time, you just have to do it.”

Feehan noted due to the limited number of sequenced Delta-plus variants, only 130 in total across the country, health officials can’t make definitive statements yet on exactly what the plus variant can do compared to other variants currently in circulation.

Only 35% of the state is fully vaccinated and Feehan said the longer that number remains woefully low, the higher the chance more of these increasingly dangerous variants develop.

“All of those unvaccinated people are essentially like a playground for this virus to perfect itself and to continue mutating and acquiring mutations that help it to become more transmissible and more deadly,” said Feehan. “We have the opportunity today, we are so blessed in the US to have three really amazing vaccines available to us, you can go to wherever local clinic and get them today. That’s the fortunate thing but the unfortunate thing is that some people have shown that they aren’t going to do it.”

Feehan said the good news for those who are vaccinated is that you likely have a high level of protection even against this new plus variant. Regardless she’s still going to play it safe.

“In case this turns out to be something worse I might wear a mask if I’m in a setting that I don’t know how many unvaccinated people are there, or I’ll just have gatherings with friends and family who I know are vaccinated,” said Feehan.

Against the standard Delta variant, those who are fully vaccinated are thought to have about 90% protection from the virus, while those who’ve only received one shot only have about 32% protection.

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