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It’s hard to know what to expect from the pandemic right now. While some places are opening up, others are moving towards an increasing level of restrictions.
And the biggest reason for the hesitation right now is the new Delta variant our country is dealing with.
That’s why we’re breaking down what experts at Yale Medicine are telling us about the variant to try to clear up some of the questions.
What is Delta?
Delta is a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19).
It was first isolated in India back in December 2020. And it rapidly swept through that country before spreading to the U.K. and then heading for the United States.
While Alpha (the first COVID variant identified) was the dominant strain in the U.S., Delta has now taken over and is causing the majority of cases now reported. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Delta represents more than 80 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the United States.
And while it might seem scary or strange that COVID has changed and a new variant has emerged, the truth is that scientists expected this to happen.
As Inci Yildirim, MD, Ph.D., a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist and a vaccinologist, puts it, “All viruses evolve over time and undergo changes as they spread and replicate”.
So what do they say is important to know about Delta?
#1 – Delta spreads more easily
According to F. Perry Wilson, MD, a Yale Medicine epidemiologist, Delta is spreading 50 percent faster than the Alpha strain we were dealing with.
And when you consider that Alpha was already 50 percent more contagious than the original COVID strain that kicked everything off in China, it’s easy to see why people have been worried.
When asked about this spread rate, Dr. Wilson offered these numbers for clarity:
- If no one is wearing a mask or vaccinated, it’s estimated that a person with the original strain would infect 2.5 additional people.
- In the same environment, someone with Delta would possibly infect 3.5 to 4 others.
These numbers make it easy to see why Delta has quickly become dominant.
#2 – Lack of vaccination could increase your risk
The doctors at Yale Medicine also say that the people who are most at risk from Delta are those who haven’t yet been fully vaccinated.
Full vaccination in this case means one dose of the Johnson & Johnson jab or two doses of the Pfizer of Moderna options.
And it’s important to note when considering vaccination that Dr. Yildirim says that Delta seems to be exhibiting a larger impact on younger age groups than the previous virus variants.
#3 – Nothing is perfect
Of course, as with anything in life, you shouldn’t expect perfection.
As the director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, MD, Ph.D., told the New York Times, breakthrough cases of COVID-19 can and do occur even in the fully vaccinated. And these people may still spread the virus since research has shown high viral loads of COVID in the nose and throats of people with Delta breakthroughs.
#4 – Small, contained outbreaks could happen
Dr. Wilson expects what he calls, “hyperlocal outbreaks” of Delta to start making themselves known due to low vaccination rates in some communities.
He says that you could see a small low-vaccination town surrounded and pinned in by other high vaccination communities where the virus is within its borders. This could create hotspots where the virus will, “hop, skip, and jump from one poorly vaccinated area to another.”
Yet, while studies are still ongoing to see how effective the jabs will be at containing Delta, thus far a Public Health England analysis (which has not yet been peer-reviewed) found:
- The Pfizer jab showed an efficacy of 88 percent against symptomatic disease and 96 percent against hospitalization
- Oxford-AstraZeneca rang in at 60 percent efficacy versus symptomatic disease and 93 percent against hospitalization.
#5 – We still have a lot to learn
Finally, we should all remember that like with Alpha that first impacted the U.S., learning as much as we can about the Delta variant will take time.
So far studies are inconclusive on whether the Delta variant will end up being more or less severe than Alpha or have no significant difference in severity.
We also are still learning how Delta impacts the body. In fact, symptoms of Alpha and Delta may look different. Thus far it looks like if you end up with Delta, you’re less likely to suffer cough and loss of smell.
However, symptoms like headache, sore throat, runny nose, and fever present in over 90 percent of cases in the U.K., where Delta has hit hard.
#6 – Remember the basics
So while we definitely don’t know everything about the Delta variant yet, including what overall effect it will have on the pandemic here in the U.S., there’s something that is clear.
Remembering the basics of infection prevention is as vital now as it was in the beginning of the pandemic. Here are some of those basics we’ve share with you:
- Practice frequent hand washing. And remember, simple soap does the trick.
- Use nutrients that boost your body to stay healthy
- Eat foods that power up your immune system, turning it into a suit of armor to protect your body from germs
- Kick the habits that hijack your immune function and leave you vulnerable
And be sure to learn how to stop COVID transmission where it starts – the nose.
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5 Things To Know About the Delta Variant – Yale Medicine