Researchers at UW Medicine’s Virology Laboratory are tracking the statewide spread of the highly transmissible coronavirus delta variant in Washington, with 170 cases detected as of Monday.

The lab identifies strains of the virus through genome sequencing of positive screening tests. According to a UW Medicine post, the process identifies the strains present locally and across Washington state.

“It’s something that we’re really concerned about when we’re watching those numbers over time,” said Dr. Pavitra Roychoudhury, acting instructor for the Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology.

The delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, is more transmissible than other variants of the virus, health experts say. First identified in India, it has caused waves of new cases in India, China, Sweden and the United Kingdom — and is now on the rise in the United States, UW Medicine said.

Roychoudhury said FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines provide the best available protection against the delta variant, as well as all other variants detected since the beginning of the pandemic.