5 Things to Know About Delta Variant
August 12 - December 31
The predominant COVID-19 strain has put the focus back on prevention. A major worry right now is Delta, a highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus strain, which was first identified in India in December. It swept rapidly through that country and Great Britain before reaching the U.S., where it is now the predominant variant.
Here are 5 things you need to know about the Delta Variant:
1.Delta is more contagious than the other virus strains.
One thing that is unique about Delta is how quickly it is spreading, says F. Perry Wilson, MD, a Yale Medicine epidemiologist. The first Delta case was identified in December 2020, and the variant soon became the predominant strain of the virus in both India and then Great Britain. Delta was spreading 50% faster than Alpha, which was 50% more contagious than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, he says. “In a completely unmitigated environment—where no one is vaccinated or wearing masks—it’s estimated that the average person infected with the original coronavirus strain will infect 2.5 other people,” Dr. Wilson says. “In the same environment, Delta would spread from one person to maybe 3.5 or 4 other people.”
2.Unvaccinated people are at risk.
People who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are most at risk. “As older age groups get vaccinated, those who are younger and unvaccinated will be at higher risk of getting COVID-19 with any variant,” says Dr. Yildirim. “But Delta seems to be impacting younger age groups more than previous variants.”
3.Delta could lead to ‘hyperlocal outbreaks.’
In some cases, a low-vaccination town that is surrounded by high vaccination areas could end up with the virus contained within its borders, and the result could be “hyperlocal outbreaks,” he says. “Then, the pandemic could look different than what we’ve seen before, where there are real hotspots around the country.”
4.There is still more to learn about Delta.
Some experts say it’s too soon to know whether we will need a booster modified to target the Delta variant—or to bolster protection against the original virus. Vaccine companies are working on boosters, although they would still face the hurdle of getting FDA authorization for them. While the Biden Administration officials has not made a commitment to boosters, in July it said a third shot of the two mRNA vaccines might be necessary for people over 65 and those with compromised immune systems.
Delta Plus—a subvariant of Delta, has also been found in the U.S., the U.K., and other countries. “Delta Plus has one additional mutation to what the Delta variant has,” says Dr. Yildirim.
5.Vaccination is the best protection against Delta.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from Delta is to get fully vaccinated, the
doctors say. At this point, that means if you get a two-dose vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna, for example, you must get both shots and then wait the recommended two-week period for those shots to take full effect. Whether or not you are vaccinated, it’s also important to follow CDC prevention guidelines that are available for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
“Like everything in life, this is an ongoing risk assessment,” says Dr. Yildirim. “If it is sunny and you’ll be outdoors, you put on sunscreen. If you are in a crowded gathering, potentially with unvaccinated people, you put your 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.”