DES MOINES, Iowa — The Delta variant of COVID-19 is now the dominant strain of the virus in Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The IDPH says the variant was first confirmed in the state on May 4th and it has since become the dominant strain. It is more contagious and often causes more severe symptoms than the original virus.

Sarah Ekstrand of the IDPH tells WHO 13 by the week of June 14th, the Delta strain accounted for 51-percent of all new cases in the state. Last week, the strain was responsible for 53-percent of new cases.

Ekstrand says last week the state began asking for all of the labs processing COVID-19 tests to send their remaining samples from positive tests to the State Hygienic Lab to be sequenced, in order to get an even clearer view of the prevalence of different virus variants in the state.

The IDPH says all Iowans should assume the variant is circulating in their communities and that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself.

Ekstrand says the most recent data shows COVID-19 vaccines have proved effective at preventing illness for all the known variants of the virus.