More dangerous than Delta? Experts warn of new COVID variants

NOW: More dangerous than Delta? Experts warn of new COVID variants

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Right now the Delta variant is spreading like wildfire. It is more contagious and more dangerous than previous strains, but experts say the next strain will be even worse.

Dr. Ann Sheehy is a hospitalist at UW Health and treats COVID-19 patients. She says with the Delta variant spreading fast, ICUs are filling up again.

"Similar to what has been shown across the country where 98 to 99 percent of patients needing hospitalization for COVID-19, the majority of our patients coming have not been vaccinated," Dr. Sheehy said. "I think now there's a sense of feeling sort of defeated and frustrated that we can't get the population vaccinated because we feel like what we're seeing in the hospital is very preventable now."

And the more COVID-19 is allowed to spread, the more the virus strengthens.

"This is exactly what viruses do, they mutate to become more infectious and more harmful," Dr. Sheehy said.

In fact it's already happening.

"There are some variants that are out here already," said Dr. Ajay Sethi, associate professor of population health sciences at UW Madison.

"One, people are calling Delta-plus. These variants are going to continue to evolve."

Right now, doctors say even if vaccinated people contract COVID-19, the vaccines are protecting people from getting seriously ill.

"It's one of the best vaccines we've ever had as far as preventing the disease it's intended to prevent," Dr. Sheehy said.

But in the future, mutations could require booster shots or new vaccines altogether.

"So far, for all the variants,  the vaccines do protect against hospitalizations and death," Dr. Sethi said. "And if we get to the point where the vaccines aren't protecting against the strains, that's when manufactures are ready to update those vaccines."

Dr. Sheehy says if you are concerned about the vaccine, talk to your doctor to make sure you're getting accurate information.

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