The new mutations of the COVID-19 virus, especially the delta variant, have led to the rise in the number of cases of this pandemic in several countries. This new variant is believed to be responsible for the second and third waves of COVID-19 that have pushed these countries to adopt tougher measures to contain its spread and bring down the incidences of morbidity and mortality.
The delta variant that has recently surfaced in the United States was first identified in December 2020 in India. This new mutation swept through India and Great Britain rapidly before reaching the US where it surged quickly. It is now the most dominant variant of SARS CoV-2, estimated to be accounting for nearly 99% of the COVID-19 cases leading to an overwhelming rise in hospitalizations in several states.
The delta variant is believed to be twice as contagious as the previous variants of this virus. Also, most delta infections have been detected in people who have not received a vaccine. However, studies have shown that this variant has increased transmissibility among vaccinated people as well. A vaccinated person infected with the delta variant of SARS CoV-2can transmit this virus to others.
This is why; it is important to be aware of the transmissibility and behaviors of this variant and take appropriate precautions to avoid the risk of serious complications in vaccinated as well as non-vaccinated populations.
Here are some important facts you must know about the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
The CDC has labeled the Delta variant as “a variant of concern” for its highly contagious nature.
The quick growth rate of the delta variant has been termed dramatic as it has spread at a 50% faster speed than the earlier variants of this virus including the alpha variant, which itself had a 50% higher contagiousness compared to the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2.
It is estimated that in a thoroughly unmitigated environment where no person is vaccinated or wearing a mask, the average patient infected with the original strain of coronavirus could infect 2.5 other people. In the same environment, the delta variant would spread from an infected person to nearly 3.5 to 4 other people.
This indicates the higher contagious nature of the delta variant and its ability to grow more quickly and exponentially.
Several countries including the US have a disproportionate number of unvaccinated people in some states. In the US, the Appalachian and Southern states including Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Missouri have a lower vaccination rate. However, the rise in the number of cases of delta variants isnot limited to these parts of the US alone.
Several other states with a higher vaccination rate have also witnessed a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases caused due to the delta variant. This suggests that the delta variant could be a cause of concern even for the vaccinated populations.
One research study has shown that people below 50 years of age were 2.5 times more prone to become infected with this variant. Also, as the older age groups are getting vaccinated, the younger and unvaccinated people would be at a higher risk of getting infected with any of the variants of COVID-19, though the delta variant seems to be impacting the younger age groups more compared to the previous variants.
If the delta variant continues to accelerate the COVID-19 pandemic, the heightened transmissibility of this strain could pose major challenges. The risk of an individual contracting this infection and developing severe symptoms could depend on where he or she lives and how many people in the location are vaccinated.
Places with ‘patchwork vaccination,’ where small pockets of the population have been highly vaccinated with adjacent places having just 20% vaccinated population, could be a problem as this would allow the virus to hop, jump, and skip from one poorly vaccinated area to another.
Even as the data about the delta variant continues to accumulate, it is believed that scientists still have a long way to go before the various behaviors of this strain are understood clearly.
Scientists are working hard to analyze the behavior of this variant as much as possible and as quickly as they can. The studies are particularly focused on learning whether the delta variant could make a person sicker than the original strain of this virus.
Early data about the severity of COVID-19 symptoms caused due to the delta variant have suggested that it might result in a higher need for hospitalization, especially in the unvaccinated population. Delta variant has also been found to be associated with nearly twice the hospitalization risk as compared to the alpha variant.
There are several additional concerns about the delta variant, including its subvariant,‘Delta Plus’, that has been detected in the USand the UK. Delta Plus has an additional mutation called K417N that could affect the spike protein, which the virus needs to infect the cells. This is now the main focus for the mRNA and several other vaccines.
You can learn more about the differences between the various strains of the SARS CoV-2virus at our Respiratory Therapy CME Conferences 2021.
One of the most effective strategies to protect yourself from the delta variant is to get fully vaccinated. It is important to receive the recommended number of vaccine shots and wait for the period of at least two weeks for the vaccine to develop enough antibodies to help the body fight the infection efficiently.
Vaccines authorized and approved in the US and other countries have been found to provide strong protection against severe symptoms, hospitalization, and morality.
Patients with immune-compromising disorders may need an additional booster dose of vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna about 28 days after the second shot to reach the required level of immunity.
The delta variant has increased the challenges faced by scientists and healthcare professionals. It is important for doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to be aware of the latest information related to the delta variant so that they can recommend appropriate measures to their patients.
Our respiratory therapy conferences are aimed at providing the latest information about the delta variant. You can attend our respiratory webinars 2021 to learn all about the delta variant to ensure you can recommend the best possible preventive and treatment measures to your patients.