Fact check: Post misleads on origin of delta variant name

·3 min read

The claim: The “delta” in delta variant means “deep sleep”

The delta coronavirus variant has caused a sharp spike in cases around the country, according to public health officials.

But some people online say there's something even more sinister about the delta variant: its name.

“You’re under a spell,” reads text in a July 31 post on Facebook, which has more than 1,400 shares. “Delta variant. Delta = Deep sleep.”

The text is overlaid on a photo that depicts a man sleepwalking, with faded images of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in the background. Since the start of the pandemic, misinformation about both men has spread widely online, including false claims that they're microchipping vaccines and planning or engineering the pandemic.

"You have to be asleep to believe it..." the post's caption says.

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While the delta variant does share a name with a brain wave that is associated with sleep, there is no deeper meaning. The coronavirus variants are named after letters in the Greek alphabet.

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the post for comment.

COVID-19 variants, delta waves named using Greek alphabet

The term “delta” doesn’t mean “deep sleep.” It’s the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet.

The naming system was chosen for coronavirus variants in May. Before then, variants were referred to by alphanumeric identifiers, which scientists still use among themselves, and the locations where they were discovered. The World Health Organization called the latter practice “stigmatizing and discriminatory.”

“These labels were chosen after wide consultation and a review of many potential naming systems,” the WHO says on its website, adding that nomenclature and taxonomic experts, researchers and national authorities were consulted.

The four notable variants that public health officials are monitoring in the U.S. are named alpha, beta, gamma and delta. The WHO will announce another naming system when the 24 Greek letters are used up, USA TODAY previously reported.

The claim is likely referring to delta brain waves, which occur most often during the sleep period known as deep sleep. The four categories of brain waves were also named using the Greek alphabet.

Our rating: False

The claim that the “delta” in delta variant means “deep sleep” is FALSE, based on our research. Both the delta variant and delta brain waves were named using the Greek alphabet.

Our fact-check sources:

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Delta variant name doesn't mean 'deep sleep'

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