What to know about the Delta Variant
While the pandemic seemed to be finally beginning to fade away, the Delta variant has brought concerns back. Delta is now the dominant variant in the U.S. and is more transmissible than the common cold or influenza and many viruses, the CDC even described it as contagious as chickenpox. It also has the ability to replicate faster and spreads very quickly. It is most dangerous to those who are unvaccinated.
Delta caused more than 80% of new U.S. COVID-19 cases by the end of July. Delta spreads much faster than the original strain and reproduces in people’s nasal passages, mouth and body faster, in an environment where nobody is vaccinated or wearing masks a person with the original strain would infect 2.5 other people whereas a person with the Delta variant would infect 3.5-4 people. Therefore this strain grows exponentially. The World Health Organization also stated that this strain is about 60% more transmissible than B.1.1.7, or the U.K. variant, which was the dominant strain of new cases in the U.S. prior to Delta. Delta also appears more infectious earlier in the course of the illness. Fully vaccinated people can spread the disease if they have a breakthrough case and may be contagious whether or not they have symptoms.
Unvaccinated people are most at risk
Nearly half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, however the level of protection varies across and within states. Areas where vaccination rates are low are at risk for large outbreaks. Children are a concern as well as no vaccine has been approved for children younger than 12. Delta also seems to be impacting younger age groups more than previous variants, with adults and children under 50 about 2.5 times more likely to become infected. Vaccination is the best protection for those who are able to receive it. Those who are vaccinated could still potentially catch Delta, however those who do will experience fewer symptoms with less severity and is the best defense against the virus. Other precautions such as wearing a mask and social distancing are also recommended, especially for those who cannot receive the vaccine yet.
Vaccination varies depending on the location, there are some places with high vaccination next to areas with low vaccination and this allows the virus to travel from one poorly vaccinated area to another. This can lead to hotspots around the country. If Delta continues moving fast, it could lead to an upward COVID-19 curve. Of course this is bad because then a particular area’s health care becomes overwhelmed and more people can die.
More to learn
Researchers are still studying why the Delta variant is more transmissible than others and data is mixed on whether Delta is more severe or leads to higher rates of hospitalization, information continues to evolve as experts learn more. Symptoms are also being focused on, as they may be different from the original virus strain and include runny nose, headaches and sore throat. Since a cough and loss of smell or taste is less common researchers are concerned those who are infected may think they just have a cold, leading the variant to spread more easily. It is also unclear whether Delta causes more breakthrough infections or whether booster shots will be needed for individuals that are already vaccinated to increase protection.