SUDBURY -- The Porcupine Health Unit reported 17 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday among residents in the health unit area. Six cases are in Timmins and 11 cases are in the James Bay and Hudson Bay region. The source of infection for three cases are contacts of a case and 14 are under investigation.

The health unit has also been notified by the Public Health Ontario Laboratory that a second confirmed case of COVID-19 in Timmins is positive for the Delta variant, formally known as B1.617.2.

"The presence of this variant which spreads even more easily than the B.1.1.7 variant is extremely worrisome," the health unit said. "It is a likely a sign that it is now circulating in our communities. It is more important than ever that everyone follow the public health measures diligently and limit contacts with others who we do not live with."

The Delta variant is fueling a surge in cases in the United Kingdom, an expert recently told CTV News.

“The delta variant has grown at the fastest rate of any of the other variants that have appeared,” said David Bauer of Britain’s Francis Crick Institute and the National Institute for Health Research.

“The number one reason why it falls into everyone's radar is simply the observation that it's spreading really quickly.”

Growing evidence shows the delta variant is up to twice as transmissible as the original U.K. variant, B117, now named alpha.

And that has moved the delta strain -- which first emerged in India -- to the top of the list of concern for Harvard University scientist Bill Hanage as well.

“(Its) transmissibility is really worrying for the world, because it may be able to infect people before we're able to vaccinate them,” he said.

Hanage is a professor with Harvard’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, and among a growing number of scientists warily watching the effects of this variant, and monitoring the most recent Public Health England report.

The report concluded it may not only spread more quickly, but there could be an increased risk of serious illness.

“Hospitalizations were more likely for people infected with the delta variant. I want to emphasize this is early days,” said Hanage.

Both English and Scottish analyses continue to support the finding of “reduced vaccine effectiveness.”

That comes with a paper published in the Lancet that found that people vaccinated with Pfizer produced lower level of antibodies against the delta variant -- particularly if they only had one dose.

After a single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech, 79 per cent of people had a quantifiable neutralizing antibody response against the original strain, but this fell to 50 per cent for alpha variant, 32 per cent for delta variant.

The Delta variant makes getting your second dose of vaccine even more important, the Porcupine Health Unit said.

"Be sure to return for your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as instructed by the vaccination clinic or the health care provider who provided you with your first dose," the health unit said.

"It is important that you receive two doses of the vaccine as protection against COVID-19 is not optimal until after the second dose of the vaccine is received. It is very important that you receive the second dose even if you experienced side-effects the first time."

Individuals who are looking to get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can book an appointment online or drop-in to our community clinics found here on the vaccine page.

Individuals who are looking to get their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, check if you are eligible. If you are eligible, an appointment is required. Visit the vaccine page for information or to book your appointment.

"Remember that every outing is a low risk exposure and you need to follow public health measures correctly each and every time you leave your house," the health unit said. "This includes times when you pick up items curbside."

The COVID-19 information line is open today from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 705-360-4819 or the toll-free number, 1-800-461-1818.