A Quick Overview of the Delta Variant
Public health officials are monitoring certain coronavirus mutations and variants that might be more contagious or deadly than COVID-19. A virus changes constantly to adapt and survive, and a variant emerges when a strain has one or more mutations that differ from the rest.
Both the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) monitor these variations to determine if transmission could lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as whether current vaccines are effective. The United States classifies them as “variant of interest,” which may cause outbreaks, but isn’t widespread; or “variants of concern,” which may lead to more severe diseases; or “variant of high consequence,” which may make vaccines and treatments less likely to work well.
While the U.S. has so far not classified any coronavirus variants as “high consequence,” many strains have been classified as “variants of concern” that should be closely monitored. In particular, the Delta variant has drawn focused attention during the past month due to a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in several countries, including the United States.
The following information gives you an overview of the Delta variant:
What is the Delta Variant?
The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, can spread more rapidly, according to the CDC. The strain has spike protein mutations that make it easy for it to infect human cells. It means that people could be more contagious if they contract the virus and spread it more easily to others. It is now the dominant breed in the United States.
The researchers reported that the Delta variant is about 50% more contagious than the alpha variant, which was first identified in the UK, according to the Washington Post. Alpha, also known as B.1.1.7, was 50% more contagious than the original coronavirus first identified in China in 2019.
Public health experts estimate that the average person with Delta passes it to three to four other people, compared to one or two other people through the original strain of the coronavirus, according to Yale Medicine. The Delta variant may also escape protection from vaccines and some COVID-19 treatments, although studies are still ongoing.
What is the Delta Plus variant?
CBS News reported that the Delta Plus variant, also known as B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1, is considered a “sub-variant” of the Delta version. The virus is genetically modified so that it can attack lung cells more efficiently and possibly evade vaccination.
Delta Plus variant was identified first in India but has now been found in the U.S., U.K., and several other countries as well. India has called it a variant of concern, but the CDC and WHO have not.
What is the Origin of the Delta variant?
The Delta variant was first identified in India in December 2020, leading to major outbreaks. CDC tracker data indicates it spread rapidly and has now been reported in 104 countries.
Since early July, Delta has become the dominant form of Coronavirus in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and other countries. Public Health England reports that the Delta variant now accounts for more than 97% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.K.
What are the Symptoms of a Delta variant?
The symptoms are similar to those seen with the original coronavirus strain and other variants, including a persistent cough, headache, fever, and sore throat.
COVID-19 patients in the U.K have reported a few symptoms that differ from Delta, based on the ZOE COVID Symptom Study. Coughing and loss of smell appear to be less common. The most common symptoms are headache, sore throat, runny nose, and fever.
Is The Delta Variant the Deadlier?
Researchers are still tracking the data to determine how deadly it is. A recent study published in The Lancet evidenced that the Delta variant was significantly more likely to cause hospitalization and deaths in the country.
How does the Delta Variant affect the Unvaccinated?
Yale Medicine reported that those who haven’t been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are the most at risk. In the U.S., a rise in cases has been observed in states like Missouri and Arkansas with low vaccination rates. There have been outbreaks in Mountain states such as Wyoming as well.
Unvaccinated children and younger adults may also contract the disease. A recent study published by Imperial College London found that children under the age of 50 are 2.5 times more likely to get infected with the Delta virus than adults under the age of 50 who were not vaccinated.
What does the Delta variant mean for vaccinated?
Scientists are studying how the Delta variant can cause breakthrough cases or infections in people who have already been vaccinated. They seem to be rare so far.
According to Public Health England, two doses of the Delta variant of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine appeared to be about 88% effective at preventing disease and 96% effective at preventing hospitalization. AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which hasn’t been approved for use in the U.S., was 60% effective against disease and 93% effective against hospitalization.
Researchers estimate that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is similar to AstraZeneca’s in terms of efficacy against the Delta variant. A study published July 19 on a preprint server – meaning it was not peer-reviewed – found that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was less effective over time, suggesting that those who received the vaccine might need a booster shot.
Researchers are now testing booster shots to determine whether they can better protect against this variant and future ones that will emerge. As CNN reported, Pfizer has announced that it will seek FDA approval for a booster dose in August.
What’s is the Delta variant situation in the U.S.?
The Washington Post reported that Delta variants are present in all 50 states and account for 52% of new infections in the U.S. It makes up about 80% of new cases in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
It’s unclear how the Delta variant will impact the U.S. though it’s led to more cases around the globe. Lockdowns and curfews have been imposed in Australia, South Africa, Bangladesh, and new travel restrictions have been imposed in Germany, Hong Kong, and Taiwan to reduce the number of flights from countries with the widespread transmission.
What is the Epsilon variant?
Earlier this year, the Epsilon variant, also known as B.1.427/B.1.429, was detected in Southern California. Several lab studies suggest Epsilon has three mutations in the spike protein that might result in COVID-19 treatments and vaccines being less effective, according to a study published in Science. Now, it has been reported in over 30 countries.
According to the CDC, Epsilon has about 20% higher transmission. Due to a decrease in cases across the U.S. and data showing vaccines are effective, it was downgraded from a “variant of concern” to a “variant of interest” on June 29.
What is the Lambda variant?
The Lambda variant, also known as C.37, was discovered in Peru in August 2020. The WHO designated it a “variant of interest” in mid-June after spreading throughout South America.
According to The New York Times, Lambda has several mutations similar to contagious variants, but scientists aren’t yet sure how dangerous it is. In the United States, less than 1% of cases are caused by this variant.
Delta variant – Takeaway
COVID-19 is becoming more prevalent in the U.S. due to the loosening of social distancing restrictions and the proliferation of this mutation in areas with low vaccination rates. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself. Currently, 99% of COVID-19-related deaths in the country occur among the unvaccinated. Don’t risk your health by not getting vaccinated!