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What is the Delta variant and am I protected against it with my vaccine?

A new COVID-19 variant even more contagious than the UK variant is spreading across the country. Here's what you need to know.

TEMPLE, Texas — The Texas Department of State Health Services has confirmed 219 cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant so far and these cases are believed to be between 20 and 30 percent of new cases in the state. At the same time, they believe it will be the top spreader in state. 

Why? Because the virus is extremely contagious, and sequencing can only catch a small sample of the actual amount. That sequencing is done at a lab in Austin.

Meanwhile, at Baylor Scott and White in Temple, Chief Pathology and Lab Medicine Officer Dr. Ari Rao can do variant sequencing in-house and see results in five days instead of weeks. 

Rao said the Delta variant is already spreading.

"In the last two weeks it's become the dominant strain. We think 87 percent of all our cases are the Delta variant," Rao said.  

RELATED: Central Texas man fighting for his life after contracting Delta variant despite vaccine

Rao said the previous dominant strain was the UK variant.

According to Bell County Health District Chief Epidemiologist Costa Claver, the Delta variant requires less exposure to infect a host, making it more contagious.

"Even a low amount can make someone sick, that's why its spreading very fast," Claver said. "Even a small exposure."

RELATED: Yes, the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Delta variant

People who have already been vaccinated can also get the Delta variant. This is called a vaccine "breakthrough." Rao said the Delta variant is now making up the majority of breakthroughs the hospital system is seeing, but there is a silver lining. While vaccinated individuals can contract the variant, the resulting symptoms are almost always mild.

"Less than one percent get really, really sick and get admitted to the hospital," Rao said. 

Rao also told 6 News the actual rate of breakthrough is very rare at only about five percent. The majority of new COVID-19 patients, she said, are people who have not been vaccinated. 

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