Since the pandemic began, the world witnessed the onslaught of COVID-19, the birth of emergency vaccines, and humankind’s forced transition into the new normal. However, the end is still nowhere in sight. In fact, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is consistently going through changes and mutations that always leave infectious diseases experts worried beyond their wits.
From the Alpha variant that drove a surge in the United Kingdom, to the Beta variant that led to a resurgence in South Africa, and the Gamma variant that stirred Brazil’s health system, this coronavirus doesn’t seem to be anywhere near done yet. Now, the world is battling the most dominant strain in the US and other countries today: A variant called Delta.
What is the Delta Variant?
Delta, or the B.1.617.2 variant, was first discovered in India sometime in October 2020 and the first proven case was seen in December of that same year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) labeled this strain as a Variant of Concern because it spreads faster than any other variant before it.
The Delta variant spread so much in India that it generated a variant of its own: The Delta Plus variant. The AY.1 strain acquired the K417N mutation, making the spike protein more contagious and more dangerous than Delta.
Impact and Severity of Delta and Delta Plus
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Delta is by far the “fastest and fittest” of all the COVID-19 variants. It spreads 50% faster than the Alpha variant, affecting more people at a faster rate. It caught India off-guard and brought the death rate to an all-time high as medical facilities are running out of space and medical supplies become scarce. After India, Delta also became the dominant strain in Great Britain and is quickly spreading to over 100 countries as well.
Delta-infected patients are more likely to get hospitalized, experience other unique symptoms like hearing impairment. Delta is likely to induce reinfections among individuals who recovered from other strains of COVID-19.
Just when people thought it could not get any worse, Delta Plus comes in and is much worse than its source variant. This mutated version of Delta has increased transmissibility, binds stronger to lung cells, and could reduce the antibody response of the infected person.
Existence of the Delta Variant in the US
Since the first known Delta case was diagnosed in the United States in March of 2021, it has become the dominant strain in the country. As of July, over 50% of all COVID-19 cases in the US is caused by the Delta strain.
Vaccines Vs Delta Strain
The good news is that most vaccines have proven to be effective against the Delta variant. Although the US is still concerned since about a half of the total population is yet to be vaccinated, states and cities with higher vaccination rates are more likely to have lower Delta-related COVID cases.
However, the Delta Plus variant can affect both unvaccinated and vaccinated people. This is a huge concern especially since this strain is known to spread faster and at a larger scale. Despite this, there is still no definite findings on how much worse and deadlier the Delta and Delta Plus variants are compared to the first few variants that emerged before them.
According to a pre-print study by Public Health England, Pfizer and AstraZeneca have shown above 90% effectiveness against the Delta strain. Pfizer, for one, shows promising results against the Delta variant. But the manufacturers are still working on booster shots to strengthen the effectiveness and extend the span of protection of their vaccines.
What is Being Done About it?
President Joe Biden is urging the public to get vaccinated. The effectiveness rate of most vaccines are high enough to add protection against the new variants and to slow down their spread. While unvaccinated people are urged to think twice before saying no to the vaccine, areas in the US that the vaccines can’t reach are being put in top priority now.
The CDC, along with public health officials and agencies, are closely monitoring the SARS-CoV2 virus. Each new Coronavirus variant is being studied in order to identify their changes and how those would affect humans. The CDC regularly updates their website with new and updated information regarding the current pandemic and the virus we are all battling against.
Your Role in Helping Prevent Transmission
The Delta variant is indeed quite scary and alarming. But if we work together to fight it, it is possible to keep it from spreading and to keep the virus from mutating to newer variants.
Whether you are fully vaccinated or not, you should still wear a mask and practice social distancing, especially in public. Try to avoid crowded places and, if at all possible, stay at home at all times.
If you must go out, for work or necessities, practice social distancing and always wash and sanitize your hands. When you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes immediately as COVID-19 bacteria is known to stick and stay on most fabrics. Avoid going near any of your family members when you get home until after you have taken a shower and have out on a fresh set of clothing.
If you feel like you are getting a cough or cold, assume that you are infectious and stay home. Isolate yourself and treat your symptoms immediately. If you need medical advice, get in touch with an online doctor for a virtual visit, like Statcare’s Telemedicine and Televisit services. For your peace of mind, get tested for COVID-19.
Simply by following the basic health protocols mandated by the US government and health departments, everyone in the US will be able to get through any infectious surge caused by the Delta and Delta Plus variants.