While we are all ready for COVID-19 to be a thing of the past, unfortunately it continues to take lives each day. With herd immunity increasing due to exposure and vaccinations, many restrictions are being lifted and life is getting back to a more normal existence for many people. However, a new, more infectious variant of COVID, known as the Delta variant, has emerged. Dr. Ekezie Francis of Keystone Infectious Disease gives information about how this new variant could affect our community in today’s Take Care article.
Differences Between Variants
The Delta variant differs from the earlier variant (known as the Alpha variant B.117) because it has a mutation that makes it behave somewhat differently. It was first identified in India but now it is the most rapidly spreading strain in the United States. It is more dangerous because it is more infectious and about 50% more contagious than the Alpha variant. This means that it can spread more quickly and infect more people in a shorter period of time.
Symptoms And Testing
The symptoms are similar although there have been some early reports that the Delta variant may cause less of a cough and loss of smell. However, headaches, fevers, runny noses and sore throats were still common symptoms. It’s important to note that different people may show different symptoms regardless of the variant of the virus they have. In general, you cannot know which variant you have based on symptoms alone, and therefore any symptom should be taken seriously. The routine diagnostic testing is the same for each variant, but the variants are identified by genetic sequencing done in special laboratories.
In order to protect yourself and others from this new variant, the biggest precaution you can take is to get vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 90% of those admitted to hospitals with COVID are unvaccinated, regardless of the strain of virus. Although the Delta variant is more contagious, mask wearing, social distancing, avoiding gatherings and hand hygiene are still good practices to prevent spread. But most importantly, vaccination is key. Those people who are already vaccinated need not worry about the variants. From the data currently available, vaccinated individuals are protected from both of these variants.
Many people are asking about the possibility of booster shots, but it is too soon to say if they will be needed. A lot of studies are underway to see if and when a booster dose will be needed, but at this time there is no recommendation for one.
The real takeaway information that I want to stress is that we are not out of the woods yet with this pandemic. The Delta variant is spreading fast, making people really sick and killing many people. It is mainly infecting those who are unvaccinated. The good news is, we have a highly effective and safe tool to prevent COVID-19 (including the Delta variant) and that tool is vaccination.
This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.