Four things to know about the Delta Variant

07/29/21 By Megan Malke

For the first time since early 2020, we have hope that COVID-19 will soon fade into the background as we make significant strides toward pre-pandemic normalcy. But experts want us to know that there is still a concern that new mutations of the virus could bring it back, and it might be even more powerful.

The primary concern right now is the Delta variant. The Delta variant is a highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus strain, first identified in India in December 2020 and swept rapidly through that country. Eventually, Delta made its way to Great Britain, and the first Delta case in the United States was diagnosed in March 2021. As of July 2021, it is the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for more than 50% of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

From what we know so far, people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus appear to have protection against Delta, but what else should you know?

Delta is more contagious than other virus strains.

Delta is the name for the B.1.617.2. variant, a SARS-CoV-2 mutation. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called this version of the virus “the fastest and fittest,” and In mid-June, the CDC labeled Delta as “a variant of concern.” 

Delta is spreading 50% faster than the Alpha strain (50% more transmissible than earlier strains), which was 50% more contagious than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. It’s estimated that the average person infected with the original coronavirus strain would infect 2.5 other people. In the same environment, Delta would spread from one person to maybe 3.5 or 4 other people.

Delta could lead to ‘hyperlocal outbreaks.’

With the rise of the Delta variant, some experts say COVID-19 is transforming into a series of regional epidemics rather than one global pandemic.

Suppose vaccination rates fail to pick up in regions with low vaccination rates. In that case, health officials predict concentrated, hyper-regionalized COVID-19 outbreaks could surface.

Symptoms from Delta infections differ from other variants.

There is little research on this, but some people have reported symptoms such as headaches, sore throat, and runny nose without the trademark COVID-19 signs, such as a loss of taste and smell.

There is more to learn about Delta.

One important question is whether the Delta strain will make you sicker than the original virus. Early information suggests it is more likely to result in hospitalization in unvaccinated individuals. However, that could change as experts learn more. 

It’s not yet clear whether Delta could cause more breakthrough cases- infections in people who have been vaccinated or have natural immunity from a prior COVID-19 infection. 

Takeaways

The bottom line is that people need to protect themselves and their loved ones against the Delta variant. The CDC recommends that parents make sure their unvaccinated children wash their hands often with soap and water and avoid close contact with those who are coughing, sneezing, or complaining of feeling unwell.  

Those living in areas with low vaccination rates may want to continue wearing masks, particularly in high-risk settings, such as indoor gatherings, areas with large crowds, or places such as senior living facilities, where the consequences of transmission could be deadly.

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Sources:

https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/5-things-to-know-delta-variant-covid

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/delta-variant-went-from-causing-10-to-over-50-of-covid-19-cases-what-happens-now

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07/07/delta-variant-covid/

https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/28/health/us-coronavirus-monday/index.html