What to Know About the Delta Variant

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Despite vaccination rates increasing and life returning to a more normalized state, a new strain of COVID-19 has hit the scene: the Delta variant. You’ve probably heard about it in the news by now, but in case you haven’t, the Delta variant is a mutated version of the virus causing COVID-19. It originated in India and has now spread across the globe. It has been making headlines since June, prompting health experts to warn about impending surges in COVID cases.

While this new virus shares much in common with the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, there are some crucial differences that you should be aware of, especially since cases are now on the rise again.

The Delta variant is far more transmissible

Delta is now the dominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States, accounting for over 80% of new COVID-19 cases. According to currently available data on the variant, thus far it has spread 50% faster than the Alpha variant, which was 50% more contagious than the original strain. This is incredibly alarming, considering just how contagious and transmissible the original variant has been, especially when you consider that only 60% of the US adult population is fully vaccinated. 

Some health experts speculate that the delta variant spreads more easily in part due to the fact that infected individuals produce more of the virus and sneeze more often than those infected with the original strain.

 

Unvaccinated people are at higher risk

Although there is no clear evidence yet that the health effects of the delta variant are more intense than the original strain, the numbers don’t lie — over 97% of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Whether the Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson, the coronavirus vaccine is extremely effective in combating not only transmission, but also in minimizing symptoms and severity if one contracts the virus. These vaccines are also effective at preventing the Delta variant. Southern states in particular, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, and West Virginia, have very low vaccination rates despite local governments returning to normal. These states are becoming hotbeds of coronavirus cases, so be sure to get a vaccine.

 

“Breakthrough” cases are extremely rare, but still possible, so anticipate mask mandates

While getting the vaccine is currently the best possible deterrent for the Delta variant, it is still possible to contract the virus. This is called a “breakthrough” case and is rare. Despite this possibility, the vaccine often minimizes symptoms and protects against the virus thus minimizing the risk of hospitalization. Nevertheless, given the virus’ ability to mutate and transmit, some counties are already implementing mask mandates even for those who are fully vaccinated. If the variant persists and cases begin to rise once again, don’t be surprised if you’ll have to wear a mask yet again! This is especially true because it was recently discovered that vaccinated people can also transmit the disease.

 

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