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The COVID Delta Variant: What you Need to Know

 

As if one strain of the coronavirus wasn’t enough, recent headlines have swept the nation about a “Delta variant” and possible other variants of the Coronavirus going around. This highly contagious strain of the coronavirus created a bad scenario for people trying to enjoy the end of their summer, as many states throughout the country saw COVID-19-related infections spike drastically over the last few weeks. At the same time, schools have started to reopen and students, staff and teachers have all started to head back to their classrooms, leaving many in a bind over what to do or how to do it safely.

Luckily, there is a lot of useful data out there on the Delta variant and it’s good to know the basics to stay informed.

What exactly is the Delta variant?

Similar to other viruses, a strain of the coronavirus has mutated into a few other variants that are rapidly spreading around the world. The most predominant strain in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the Delta variant, since it is more contagious than previous strains and may cause more than twice as many infections. The CDC even goes on to say that the Delta variant is more transmissible than the common cold and flu, and that it is even as contagious as the chickenpox.

The CDC has also released data back in July that showed vaccinated people can also transmit the Delta variant, which is different from previous strands that have come into play and it is also one of the reasons why mask mandates are coming back.

“All viruses evolve over time and undergo changes as they spread and replicate,” says a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist and vaccinologist, when discussing the Delta variant.

Yale Medicine breaks down the Delta variant into five things to know:

  1. The Delta variant is highly contagious: One of the most unique things about the Delta variant is how quickly it is spreading; Originally it was identified in December 2020 and was the most predominant strain of the virus, first in India and then in Great Britain. “By the end of July, Delta was the cause of more than 80% of new U.S. COVID-19 cases, according to CDC estimates.”
  2. Unvaccinated people are at a higher risk: “People who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are most at risk,” Yale Medicine writes. And, they go on to explain that children and young people are a concern as well with this variant. A study from the United Kingdom showed that children and adults under 50 were 2.5 times more likely to become infected. Unfortunately, a vaccine has not been created or approved for young children, which leaves them vulnerable.
  3. Delta variant could lead to “hyperlocal outbreaks”: As the variant quickly spreads, “the biggest questions will be about the heightened transmissibility – how many people will get the Delta variant and how fast will it spread?” This could all depend on where you live and how many people in your area are vaccinated, explains Yale Medicine. These hyperlocal outbreaks could cause local health care systems to become overwhelmed and more people may die.
  4. Still much to learn about the Delta variant: Just like any virus that spreads, evolves and changes, there tends to be a lot that’s unknown; “One important question is whether the Delta strain will make you sicker than the original virus. But many scientists say they don’t know yet.” They have also reported that the Moderna vaccine is fairly effective against the Delta variant and several other mutations, but there’s still so much to learn.
  5. Receiving a vaccination is the best preventative measure against the variant: “The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from Delta is to get fully vaccinated, the doctors say.” Yale Medicine also explains that whether or not you are vaccinated, following CDC prevention guidelines and protocols are important and can help keep you safe.

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Although the Delta variant is currently the most predominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States, there are other variants making their way around the world such as the Lambda variant in South America. According to UC Davis Health, health experts are urging people to get vaccinated in order to return back to a normal setting. However, “as long as a chunk of people across the world are unvaccinated, new strains of the virus will continue to develop and cause problems.”

So, where do we go from here? In a time that seems so uncertain, what is a good plan of action to take? What are some good ways that you can take preventative measures against spreading or getting sick with the virus?

How can you best protect yourself from the virus?

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Unfortunately, we are living in some difficult times where everyone is affected by the pandemic. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise again, things are heading back to the gloomy days of businesses closing or limiting their business hours and capacities, mask mandates, social distancing and quarantining for long periods of time. But at the same time, precautions are set in place to hopefully give you and your family a way to best practice safe prevention against contracting the virus.

According to the CDC, “Vaccines in the US are highly effective, including against the Delta variant.” They go on to state:

The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death, including against the Delta variant. But they are not 100% effective and some fully vaccinated people will become infected (called a breakthrough infection) and experience illness. For such people, the vaccine still provides them strong protection against serious illness and death.

The other way to try to combat spreading or catching the virus is by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. As this virus is highly transmissible and spreads person-to-person via fine droplets and particles that are spread through the air, wearing a protective layer such as a mask helps reduce the transmission of the variant. The CDC explains that:

At this time, as we build the level of vaccination nationwide, we must also use all the prevention strategies available, including masking indoors in public places, to stop transmission and stop the epidemic.

Vaccines are playing a crucial role in limiting spread of the virus and minimizing severe disease. Although vaccines are highly effective, they are not perfect and there will be vaccine breakthrough infections. Millions of Americans are vaccinated, and that number is growing. This means that even though the risk of breakthrough infections is low, there will be thousands of fully vaccinated people who become infected and able to infect others, especially with the surging spread of the Delta variant. Low vaccination coverage in many communities is driving the current rapid and large surge in cases associated with the Delta variant, which also increases the chances that even more concerning variants could emerge.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide what the right decisions are for your family. By either trying to decide whether or not to keep your children home instead of sending them to school, get vaccinated or live life as close to normal as possible and hope things go smoothly. Whichever it might be, it is your decision and should be what you feel is best, to stay safe. As variants of COVID-19 continue to pop up and spread, everyone is working hard to come up with new and better ways to keep everyone safe. And hopefully one day, we can return back to a “normal” life.