The Delta variant was first identified in India and has been labeled a “variant of concern” and is now the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus. The CDC lists its attributes as the following:
- Increased transmissibility
- Potential reduction in neutralization by some EUA monoclonal antibody treatments
- Potential reduction in neutralization by post-vaccination sera
According to the World Health Organization, a virus has a higher likelihood of mutating when it is widely circulating in a population and causing many infections. “The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more it replicates – and the more opportunities it has to undergo changes.”
Dr. Zeballos, Chief Medical Officer of BetterMed Urgent Care, answered some questions about the COVID-19 Delta variant.
What is the Delta variant?
Dr. Zeballos: “The Delta variant is a new variant of the original COVID virus which is becoming the primary virus that is being transmitted in over 70 countries.”
How is the Delta variant different?
Dr. Zeballos: “The Delta variant is different in the fact that it is more contagious. We think at least 50% more contagious and that it is causing more hospitalizations when people who are not immunized contract the illness.”
Are the symptoms of the Delta variant different?
Dr. Zeballos: “The symptoms are similar to COVID-19 original virus but there are added, or different, symptoms associated with the Delta variant. So, outside of your loss of taste, loss of smell, runny nose, cough, congestion, shortness of breath, chest pains, we are seeing people with vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain– more GI type symptoms.”
Am I at risk for the Delta variant if I’m vaccinated?
Dr. Zeballos: “That’s a great question. As far as we know some of the vaccines, for example, Pfizer provides 88% protection against the Delta variant if you have had both vaccines. If you’ve only had one vaccine, you have about 33% protection against the virus. So, it’s extremely important to get vaccinated.”
Will there be a new COVID-19 vaccine?
Dr. Zeballos: “At this point, because of how efficacious some of the vaccines, for example, Pfizer, are providing 88% protection. There probably won’t be a new vaccine, but there will be a need for a booster because of the length of the antibodies to the virus.”
Will the Delta variant cause a new surge in COVID-19 cases?
Dr. Zeballos: “We suspect it will overall in communities that don’t have a high vaccination rate.”
How can I best protect myself from the Delta variant?
Dr. Zeballos: “The best thing at this point to protect against the Delta variant since it’s only 6% of all cases of COVID virus here in the United States is to get immunized, to get vaccinated. So, the more people get vaccinated, the more people get their two shots or one shot of the vaccination depending on the vaccine manufacturer, to better protection– not only for the individual but for the community.”
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*Deng X, Garcia-Knight MA, Khalid MM, et al. Transmission, infectivity, and antibody neutralization of an emerging SARS-CoV-2 variant in California carrying a L452R spike protein mutation. MedRxiv 2021. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.03.07.21252647external icon
Allen H, Vusirikala A, Flannagan J, et al. Increased household transmission of COVID-19 cases associated with SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern B.1.617.2: a national case-control study. Public Health England. 2021external icon