The Coronavirus Delta variant seems to be at the center of most discussions regarding the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. It is also the cause of the skyrocketing positive case numbers and hospitalizations. However, along with the highly contagious variant, there seems to also be a pandemic of misinformation. Therefore, we have compiled this list of frequently asked questions to set the record straight on the Coronavirus Delta variant.
What is the Delta variant?
The Delta variant is a new strand of the original Coronavirus that came to light in early 2020. Viruses change and mutate frequently. According to the CDC, there have been multiple variants of COVID-19 in the United States. However, at this point, the original strand that infected people back in January 2020 is no longer circulating. Meanwhile, new variants are continuing to increase. In fact, according to Newsweek.com, the Delta variant is currently responsible for 93% of cases circulating in the United States.
Where did the variant originate?
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, was first identified in India in late 2020.
How did the variant occur?
The CDC website shares a great analogy on the development of variants: “If you think about a virus like a tree growing and branching out; each branch on the tree is slightly different than the others. By comparing the branches, scientists can label them according to the differences. These small differences, or variants, have been studied and identified since the beginning of the pandemic.”
What does this variant mean for vaccinated individuals?
According to the CDC website, the COVID-19 vaccines administered in the United States are highly effective in preventing severe disease and death. This includes the delta variant. However, no vaccine is 100% effective. In some instances, it is possible that full vaccinated people will be infected (which is called a breakthrough infection). In an instance of breakthrough infection where a vaccinated person becomes symptomatic, their vaccine will still provide effective protection against serious illness and death. Vaccines can also shorten the length of time one experiences symptoms from the virus.
That said, there does seem to be rising concern about vaccine effectiveness when breaking down the numbers by specific vaccine manufacturer. In a recent study shared on Axios.com, there seems to be a growing discrepancy between the effectiveness of the Pfizer and Modern vaccines when up against the Delta variant. As testing is ongoing, it is vital that vaccinated individuals remain vigilant. The vaccinated should continue taking safety precautions such as wearing a mask, maintaining six feet of space, and washing hands regularly.
What does the variant mean for unvaccinated individuals?
Vaccines play a vital role in limiting the spread of the virus and minimizing severe disease and/or death. According to the CDC, low vaccination rates in many neighborhoods and communities is the driving force behind the rapid spike in delta variant infections.
Additionally, there is data suggesting that the delta variant is more dangerous than the original strains of the virus. In separate studies from Canada and Scotland, patients were more likely to be hospitalized or experience more severe symptoms. Therefore, unvaccinated individuals are of the greatest concern when it comes to the Delta variant. The greatest risk of transmission is among unvaccinated people who are more likely to contract, and therefore, transmit the virus.
What does it all mean?
While most places are now open, and more are making masks optional, it is more important than ever to remain personally vigilant. As the situation continues to evolve, rules, restrictions, and requirements are likely to as well. Medical professionals are feeling overwhelmed from crisis fatigue. Anything we can do to help lighten the load, we should certainly try to do.