By Dr. Zulfikar Bux
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Vanderbilt Medical Center
Over the past few weeks, attention has shifted to the Delta variant of the SARSCOV2 virus, which is spreading rapidly worldwide. It is leaving a trail of devastation that is unrivaled by any other mutated forms of the virus. We cannot let our guard down now as we still have time to get ourselves in order before it possibly hit our shores and make things far worse than they are currently. Today, I will shed some light on this variant so that you can understand why you need to act now and not wait until it is too late.
What is the Delta variant?
The Delta variant came about from a mutation of the SARSCOV2 virus (Coronavirus) and was first detected in India. It is called the B.1.617.2 variant and was responsible for the recent devastation in India and now the upsurge of infections that are occurring in the UK. Recent data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that it has already spread to 74 countries. The WHO’s Director for Europe has warned that Delta is “poised to take hold in the Region,” as many countries prepare to ease restrictions and allow more social gatherings and travel across borders. Recent evidence suggests that it is already accounting for 10 percent of cases in the USA. Evidence suggests that the number of persons infected by it doubles approximately every 11 days. It is more transmissible than any other known variant and is 60 percent more transmissible than the alpha variant that was first detected in the UK last year and caused a wave of infections and deaths worldwide.
Does it cause more severe disease?
Evidence from the data available so far suggests that the Delta variant is likely to cause more severe disease. A study recently done in Scotland showed that the risk of being hospitalised from the Delta variant is two times higher than from the alpha variant. Given the higher number of infections and hospitalisations, the potential for deaths should be higher especially in unvaccinated populations.
Are Vaccines working against it?
Researchers are rushing to gather data on the effectiveness of vaccines against this variant. The available data suggests that the vaccines effects may be a little weaker than against other variants but are still significant enough to prevent destruction from this variant. Data from UK suggests that the Pfizer vaccine is 88 percent effective in preventing symptomatic disease from the Delta variant in persons who were fully vaccinated. The AstraZeneca vaccine was 60 percent effective in preventing symptoms from the Delta variant in persons who were fully vaccinated with it. However, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines had 96 percent and 92 percent efficacy respectively in preventing hospitalisations from the Delta variant.
Where does this leave us?
The Delta variant is lurking around us and it may only be a matter of time before it reaches our shores. We cannot determine how or when this may occur but we need to utilise the time we have on our side and be prepared for this threat. Thankfully, vaccines seem to still have the upper hand against this variant and we need to take advantage of this and arm ourselves. The best way to do that is to get vaccinated now so that your immune system is prepared to fight this Delta variant if you come in contact with it in the near future. The longer you take to get vaccinated, the less likely you will be prepared to fight this form of the virus; you are therefore putting yourself at risk of being another statistic in the long list of deaths that this variant is leaving in its trails.
This may end up being the toughest battle in the war against COVID-19 thus far. The good news is there is sufficient armour in the form of vaccines to protect us against this deadly variant. Arm yourself by getting vaccinated and you will help guarantee victory against this deadly Delta variant when it reaches our shores.
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