A new strain of COVID-19 has raised concerns as cases are increasing in the United States. It was mid-June when the delta variant, which originated in India, began spreading more widely and making headlines. Now, health experts are warning against another surge of COVID-19.
Here’s what health experts have learned about the delta variant:
What is the origin of Delta Variant and how far has it spread?
The first documented cases of Delta, also known as B.1.617.2, occurred in India in April and May. Currently, Delta is on the rise, particularly in the Midwest and Southeast. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified it as a variant of concern on June 15, 2021.
Delta is spreading rapidly. A rapid genotyping study found that the number of cases caused by Alpha dropped from over 70% in late April to around 42% by mid-June, with the emergence of Delta driving much of the change. The Delta variant appears to be 60% more infectious than the already highly infectious Alpha variant identified in the United Kingdom in late 2020.
9 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS COVID-19 STRAIN
1. The Delta variant is highly contagious
On July 22, approximately 80% of COVID-19 patients at UC Davis Health test positive for the Delta variant. At the same time, the CDC reported that Delta accounted for 80% of the new cases in the U.S. Health professionals say it’s typical for a new strain of the virus to be more contagious because it often becomes more efficient and easily transmitted.
2. The symptoms of the delta variant are the same
The symptoms of the Delta variant are similar to those of COVID-19. However, physicians are finding that people are getting sicker faster, especially young people. Research has found that the Delta variant grows much faster – and at much higher levels – in the respiratory tract.
If vaccinated people contract the Delta variant, they are usually asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. These symptoms are more similar to those of the common cold, such as fever, cough, or headaches along with significant loss of sense of smell.
3. Delta variant more lethal than other variants of Covid-19
While an increase in infections is troubling and can lead to more deaths – both by increasing the number of cases and by overloading the health system – preliminary research suggests that Delta is more dangerous than Alpha and twice as likely to lead to hospitalization.
4. Delta variant affects unvaccinated individuals more often
The majority of hospitalized patients have not received the COVID-19 vaccine. As of July 22, 97% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated. COVID-19 vaccine has proven highly effective in preventing infection, as well as fighting the Delta variant.
Reports show that lower vaccination rates tend to be associated with higher COVID-19 infection rates across the U.S. Health experts urge vaccination against COVID-19 to prevent deadly diseases.
5. Breakthrough cases in vaccinated people are rare, but they do occur
A vaccinated person who tests positive for COVID-19 usually has no or very mild symptoms, and it rarely results in hospitalization or death. Symptoms are similar to those of a common cold, such as coughing, fever, headache, or loss of smell.
There were 65,000 breakthrough cases (i.e. people who had previously been vaccinated but contracted COVID-19) among the 160 million people who had been fully vaccinated by July. 0.04% of vaccinated people reported breakthrough cases. Vaccines are not 100% effective. Despite COVID-19 vaccines averaging about 90% efficacy, about 10% of those vaccinated may still become infected.
6. Delta variant could be catastrophic for some communities
The Delta variant could be even more dangerous in communities with low vaccination rates, particularly in rural areas with limited access to healthcare. Several countries with limited access to the COVID-19 vaccine have seen this already. The impact will likely last for decades, say health experts.
7. Unvaccinated patients with COVID-19 regret not getting the vaccination
Health physicians have observed that many younger patients who come in with critical illnesses wish they had received the COVID-19 vaccine. Many patients have asked their physicians, “Why did I not receive the vaccine?” or “Why did I not listen?”
8. Vaccinated persons are advised to wear masks even if they have received all the vaccines
Despite being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, many health experts across the country wear masks themselves. Vaccinated people are also urged to avoid large gatherings and to mask up indoors where others’ vaccination status is unknown.
9. More COVID-19 variants are likely to appear in the future
The Delta variant is currently the most prominent strain of COVID-19, but the Lambda variant from South America is also emerging. A significant portion of the population needs to be vaccinated if the population is to return to normal. There will continue to be new strains of the virus as long as a significant proportion of the world’s population remains unvaccinated.
What other steps can people take to protect themselves?
If you have not been vaccinated, continue wearing a mask and make plans to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
As a result of new evidence showing vaccinated people can also spread infections, experts announced that everybody in high-transmission areas, including those who have received vaccinations, needs to wear masks in public spaces. It is also recommended that vaccinated people with vulnerable household members, including young children and people with weak immune systems, wear masks in indoor public spaces.
California’s largest county, Los Angeles, is among a growing number of municipalities to reintroduce indoor mask mandates.
Worldwide, the World Health Organization is also urging people to wear masks. According to Mariângela Sim*o, Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products at the WHO, “People cannot feel safe just because they had two doses. They still have to protect themselves.”
These recommendations are logical because they are coming from the WHO, which has to deal with very mixed populations across the globe with many circulating viruses, low vaccination rates, and less effective vaccines. Only 13 percent of the world’s population has been vaccinated against the virus.
Your chances of getting a breakthrough infection depend not just on your vaccination status, but also the amount of virus being circulated in your community. This is why Indian healthcare professionals, even with full vaccinations, experienced breakthrough infections due to high virus levels.
Health experts are also urging vaccinated people to get tested for the coronavirus if they experience any symptoms associated with the disease, to rule out possible infection, seek treatment, and quarantine if the test result is positive.
As Delta variant has become more prevalent in the U.S., coupled with a loosening of social distancing restrictions, a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in areas with low vaccination rates are seen. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent illness. Recent data suggests that 99% of deaths in this country caused by COVID-19 are among unvaccinated individuals. Make sure you get vaccinated!