Posted on August 6, 2021 · Posted in Blog, General, Memo Plus Gold, Personal

The Delta variant, known as B.1.617.2, has been around since late last year but in recent months it has become speedily dominant in many countries. It accounts for many of newly diagnosed cases worldwide. It was first detected in India in October 2020. With the Delta variant, infections can happen within 15 seconds and it is airborne. This is an example of how the coronavirus has become more contagious due to a change in its nature during mutation. Before this, close contacts could be infected if exposed to a Covid-19 positive patient in about 15 minutes and at a distance of one metre away.

Delta is more contagious than the other virus strains.

One thing that is unique about Delta is how quickly it is spreading. Around the world, Delta will certainly accelerate the pandemic. Infected patients carry tremendous amounts of virus in their nose and throat, and, according to preliminary reports, can spread the virus to others whether or not they have symptoms. Delta is spreading 50% faster than Alpha, which was 50% more contagious than the original strain of Covid-19. In a completely unmitigated environment – where no one is vaccinated or wearing masks – it is estimated that the average person infected with the original coronavirus strain will infect 2.5 other people. In the same environment, Delta would spread from one person to 4 other people. The Delta variant grows exponentially and more quickly. So, what seems like a fairly modest rate of infectivity can cause the virus to dominate very quickly.

Unvaccinated people are at risk.

People who have not been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are most at risk. Kids and young people are a concern as well. A recent study from the United Kingdom showed that children and adults under 50 were 2.5 times more likely to become infected with Delta. And so far, no vaccine has been approved for children between the ages of 5 to 12 years. As older age groups get vaccinated, those who are younger and unvaccinated will be at higher risk of getting Covid-19 with any variant. Unfortunately, Delta seems to be impacting younger age groups more than previous variants.

Delta could lead to ‘hyperlocal outbreaks’.

If Delta continues to move fast enough to accelerate the pandemic, the biggest questions will be about the heightened transmissibility – how many people will get the Delta variant and how fast will it spread? The answers could depend, in part, on where you live -and how many people in your location are vaccinated. Where there are pockets that are highly vaccinated that are adjacent to places that say have 40% vaccination, the problem is that this allows the virus to hop, skip, and jump from one poorly vaccinated area to another. In some cases, a low-vaccination area that is surrounded by high vaccination areas could end up with the virus contained within its borders, and the result could be “hyperlocal outbreaks. Then, the pandemic could look different than what we have seen before, where there are real hotspots around the country. So, instead of a long period of pandemic that peters out once enough people are vaccinated or naturally immune (because they have had the virus), an uptick in cases would be compressed into a shorter period of time. That sounds almost like a good thing. But it is certainly not. If too many people are infected at once in a particular area, the local healthcare system will become overwhelmed, and more people will die.

Researchers have found that people with a previous Covid-19 infection seemed to have fairly robust and long-lasting immune responses. They found that antibodies lasted well, with a small drop in levels at 6 to 8 months after infection. They also found that T cells levels reduced slightly, and B cells increased – a finding they cannot explain. The scientists emphasise that these findings are by no means conclusive evidence of the long-lasting protective immunity after a Covid-19 infection.

There is still more to learn about Delta.

One important question is whether the Delta strain will make you sicker than the original virus. But many scientists say they do not know yet. Early information about the severity of Delta included a study from Scotland that showed the Delta variant was about twice as likely as Alpha to result in hospitalization in unvaccinated individuals.

Another question focuses on how Delta affects the body. There have been reports of symptoms that are different from those associated with the original coronavirus strain. It seems like cough and loss of smell are less common. And headache, sore throat, runny nose, and fever are present based on the most recent surveys in the United Kingdom.

It is unclear whether Delta could cause more breakthrough cases – infections in people who have been vaccinated or have natural immunity from a prior Covid-19 infection. A Public Health England analysis showed that at least two vaccines are effective against Delta. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease and 96% effective against hospitalization from Delta in the studies, while Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was 60% effective against symptomatic disease and 93% effective against hospitalization. The studies tracked participants who were fully vaccinated with both recommended doses.

Will vaccinated people need booster shots to protect against Delta? Some experts say it is too soon to know whether we will need a booster modified to target the Delta variant – or to bolster protection against the original virus. But both Pfizer and Moderna are working on boosters, although they would still face the hurdle of getting FDA authorization for them. However, a booster shot might be necessary for people over 65 years old and those with compromised immune systems.

Vaccination is the best protection against Delta.

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from Delta is to get fully vaccinated. If you get a two-dose vaccine, you must get both shots and then wait the recommended two-week period for those shots to take full effect.

If you are in a crowded gathering, potentially with unvaccinated people, you must put your face mask on and keep social distancing. If you are unvaccinated and eligible for the vaccine, the best thing you can do is to get vaccinated soonest.

Of course, there are some people who cannot get the vaccine because their doctor has advised them against it for health reasons or in some cases, they may choose not to get it. With the rise in Delta variant, many of the fence sitters may opt to get vaccinated.

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