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Novant doctor says lambda variant not yet in North Carolina

As COVID-19 cases rise in the Carolinas, health experts in Charlotte are focusing on getting more people vaccinated to prevent the spread of the lambda variant.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread in the Charlotte area, health experts are now looking at the new lambda variant, which is the dominant strain in Peru. 

Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease expert with Novant Health, said he hasn't seen any data confirming lambda is in North Carolina but feels it could only be a matter of time, especially as vaccinations continue to lull in the Carolinas.

"Some data that gives us variants comes from the CDC and is a little bit behind," Priest said. "If we don't get people vaccinated, I think it's similar to delta, I don't think it's worse. Some have very similar mutations. At this point, I think it's probably a similar story to delta and what might come after this, which is as we allow COVID to flare up, those viruses are replicating in people's airways and they're mutating."

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RELATED: Advice from vaccinated people who still got COVID-19

The CDC said unvaccinated Americans account for most of the increase nationwide. StarMed HealthCAre, one of the largest vaccine providers in Charlotte, said last week that the majority of recent positive tests are the delta variant

"Vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing hospitalizations and death, even for delta," Priest said. "If I could wave a magic wand and make everyone have antibodies because of vaccines, this would be over."

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed lambda a variant of interest. Yaneer Bar-Yam, a professor and the president of New England Complex Systems Institute, is concerned about lambda and how quickly it could spread. When Bar-Yam compares the delta and lambda variants, he said, “It's [Lambda] becoming a concern that maybe it will even be faster than the Delta as far as spreading."

RELATED: 'No excuses, Charlotte': Over 62% of recent COVID-19 positive are delta, StarMed says

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