New COVID-19 variant not yet reported in Pa., Pittsburgh doctors monitoring situation

PITTSBURGH — With the holidays right around the corner, there is some growing concern and more questions over a looming new Covid-19 variant.

It’s called the “delta plus” or AY.4.2 variant, and cases have already been reported in more than10 states.

None have occurred in Pennsylvania; however, doctors are monitoring the situation.

“Viruses constantly change. That’s why we have to get flu vaccines every year and the more people are vaccinated, the less chance that a variant or changed virus will actually cause any major disease,” said Dr. Jennifer Preiss, primary care physician with Allegheny Health Network.

Preiss says there is no need to panic at this point.

“About 4% of cases are occurring in the United States that are delta plus. We do know the delta virus by itself is more virulent.”

She say roughly 10% of the new variant cases are in Great Britain.

Preiss says the information on the variant and how quickly it may spread are still new, and research is ongoing.

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CNBC reports the delta plus variant can spread 12-18% more efficiently than the original delta variant.

Distinguishing it from the flu can be a bit challenging, so testing and masking are more important than ever before.

“This particular variant doesn’t really have any different symptoms. The biggest problem right now is we are entering flu season; flu and COVID have (an) identical set of symptoms,” said Preiss.

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away and many looking to celebrate with loved ones, she says we should all continue to protect oursevles.

“So the best mechanism of defense is again, vaccination, and being aware of the people that you’re dealing with,” said Preiss.