During the pandemic, the world witnessed the onslaught of COVID-19, the birth of emergency vaccines, and humankind’s sudden transition into the new normal. However, the end is still nowhere in sight. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is consistently going through changes and mutations that always leave infectious disease experts worried beyond their wits.
The Alpha variant drove a surge in the United Kingdom. The Beta variant led to a resurgence in South Africa. The Gamma variant stirred Brazil’s health system. This coronavirus doesn’t seem to be anywhere near done yet. Then, the world battled the most dominant strain so far 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. The first proven case was seen in December of that same year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 the original Delta.
Impact and severity of Delta and Delta Plus
According to the World Health Organization, 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 mortality rate to an all-time high. Medical facilities were running out of space and medical supplies were becoming scarce. After India, Delta also became the dominant strain in Great Britain and was quickly spreading to over 100 countries as well.
Delta-infected patients were more likely to get hospitalized and experience unique symptoms, like hearing impairment. Delta induced reinfections among individuals who recovered from other strains of COVID-19.
Just when people thought it couldn’t get any worse, Delta Plus came in and was much worse than its source variant. This mutated version of Delta has increased transmissibility. It binds stronger to lung cells and could reduce the antibody response in an 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’s become the dominant strain in the country. As of July, over 50% of all COVID-19 cases in the US were caused by the Delta strain.
Vaccines vs Delta
Fortunately, most vaccines were proven to be effective against the Delta variant. Although the US government was still concerned because half of the total population wasn’t vaccinated yet at that time, states and cities with higher vaccination rates had lower Delta-related COVID cases.
However, the Delta Plus variant can affect both unvaccinated and vaccinated people. This was a huge concern since this strain is known to spread faster and at a larger scale. Despite this, there were still no definite findings on how much worse 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, showed promising results against the Delta variant.
What is being done about it?
President Joe Biden is urging the public to get vaccinated. The effectiveness rate of most vaccines is high enough to protect against the new variants and 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 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 to identify their changes and how those would affect humans. The CDC regularly updates its website with new and updated information regarding the current pandemic and the virus we’re 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’s possible to keep it from spreading and to keep the virus from mutating to newer variants.
Whether you’re fully vaccinated or not, you should still wear a mask and practice social distancing, especially in public. 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 until after you have taken a shower and have put on a fresh set of clothing.
If you feel like you’re getting a cough or cold, assume that you’re 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. 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 country can get through any infectious surge caused by future COVID variants.