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The dangerous lambda variant has started spreading in California

The lambda variant of the coronavirus has reached California. Is this a cause for concern?

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A rapid COVID-19 test swab in Palos Verdes Estates, California.

A rapid COVID-19 test swab is processed at Palos Verdes High School in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. The lambda variant of the novel coronavirus has reached California, but experts are still cautious about how far it might spread.

Brittany Murray, The Orange County Register via AP

The lambda variant of the novel coronavirus has reached California, but experts are still cautious about how far it might spread.

Lambda variant in California

Per KESQ-TV, the lambda variant reached California along with other new variants. Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at University of California, San Francisco, said the variant is spreading in California, but the delta variant might be stopping it from becoming too strong.

  • “The lambda variant is definitely here, but the delta variant is keeping it under wraps,” Chin-Hong said, according to KESQ-TV. “It’s potentially more vaccine-evasive as well as transmissible but not as transmissible as delta.”

Hong said the delta variant is spreading so fast that the lambda variant has been stopped in its tracks. People are becoming immune to delta — either through vaccination or infection — which has quelled the lambda variant from spreading.

This fits in line with other experts’ thinking. Dr. Anna Durbin, a professor in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Newsweek that the lambda variant likely won’t spread fast because of delta.

  • “These viruses are all competing with each other for advantage to be the one that survives,” Durbin told Newsweek. “We know that the lambda variant has some of the same mutations as the delta variant that we think (will) allow it to be more transmissible, so it would be difficult to outcompete the delta variant.”

Chin-Hong said getting vaccinated remains the best way to ward off variants, though.

  • “Probably the best answer is not even to worry about the variants by all getting vaccinated,” Chin-Hong said, according to KESQ-TV.

What to know about the lambda variant

The lambda variant — which was first detected in Peru in summer 2020 — has raised some concerns among experts. For example, a new study suggested that the lambda variant of the coronavirus has evaded the COVID-19 vaccines.

  • The study — which was published on bioRxiv, which shares preliminary scientific reports — found the variant has two mutations that give it the ability to evade vaccines.

However, researchers said in a separate study published through bioRxiv, which has not been peer-reviewed, that the World Health Organization should upgrade the variant from “variant of interest” to “variant of concern.”