The pandemic has ramped up again because of SARS-CoV-2 variants. Given the spread of misinformation, it can be difficult to find clear facts about these mutations. One of the most concerning variants that has recently caused new surges of patients in hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units across the country is the Delta variant identified last December in India. What do we know about Delta?
It Is Highly Contagious
Unlike other SARS-CoV-2 variants, Delta has a transmission rate that’s higher than even the common cold, flu, or chickenpox among unvaccinated populations in the country. Unlike most other variants to date, Delta also spreads easily among vaccinated populations. Vaccinated individuals can experience breakthrough symptoms and act as carriers spreading it to others even when they don’t outwardly show symptoms or feel sick.
It Can Kill People
Delta has the ability to cause enough systemic damage to kill a person. The unvaccinated populations are at a higher risk of mortality than those who have been vaccinated. Not only can Delta kill people who refuse vaccination but also people in groups who aren’t able to receive a vaccine, such as certain immunocompromised populations, and young children.
It Creates Symptom Variety
In the early stages of the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 wasn’t known for sending people to the hospital with severe common cold symptoms. Instead, people often experienced coughing, fatigue, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Delta is more prone to causing headache, fever, runny nose, and an extremely sore throat. Like other variants, it also causes a reduced or total loss of smell for some people.
It Spawns Worrisome Variants
The Delta variant is mutating into other forms. One of these subvariants, known as Delta Plus, has caused concern in India and other areas of the world, including the United States and the United Kingdom, where it’s spreading among populations. Current observations by researchers indicate that it spreads fasters than Delta, potentially escapes antibodies created by vaccines that rely on the spike protein, such as mRNA vaccines, and binds much more strongly to lung cells.
Given these facts about Delta, healthcare officials and leaders have urged unvaccinated populations to seek immediate vaccination. Although current vaccines don’t offer perfect protection, they significantly lower the risk of symptoms that can cause long-term injury, hospitalization, or death. Additionally, vaccination combined with other precautions, such as wearing masks and acting in a socially distant fashion, helps slow the transmission of the virus and the opportunity for it to mutate as easily. Without these efforts, medical experts believe that Delta and other variants will continue to wreak havoc in unvaccinated populations, overwhelm hospitals, mutate into worse subvariants that bypass antibodies, and continue to spread, which means that the pandemic will never end.