Why COVID-19’s Delta Variant Is Bad News For The Pandemic

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COVID-19’s Delta variant, which was first identified in India, is spreading quickly across the United States. It is twice as transmittable as the original strain of the COVID-19 virus. People infected with the Delta variant have roughly 1,000 times more copies of the virus in their respiratory tract than those infected with the original strain of COVID-19. 

Those who are fully vaccinated are much less likely than those who are unvaccinated to contract and spread the Delta variant, but it does happen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported breakthrough cases of those who are fully vaccinated contracting and spreading the Delta variant. This is likely why they reversed their masking recommendations: even if you are fully vaccinated, you should wear a layered, well-fitting mask while inside populated places.

“Those who are fully vaccinated and contract the Delta variant are more likely to have mild cases of COVID-19,” says Dennis Cunningham, M.D., medical director of infection control and prevention with Henry Ford Health System. “Hospitals are filled with COVID-19 patients who haven’t been vaccinated. So this shows that the vaccines really do protect against severe cases of COVID-19.”

Monoclonal antibody treatment, given to people within a few days of testing positive for COVID-19, seems to be less effective against the Delta variant. The key to preventing illness from any of the variants and the original strain of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.

Where do children fit in with all of this?

Children can contract severe cases of COVID-19. If you have children who are at least 12 years old, they are eligible for vaccination. In this case, it is important to get them vaccinated. If you have children younger than 12 years old, they are not yet eligible for vaccination . Dr. Cunningham recommends taking extra precautions to protect them.

“Especially children under two years—as they can’t wear masks—I recommend limiting their exposure to other people,” says Dr. Cunningham. “If you can, keep a small group of friends that they play with, just as we did at the peak of the pandemic.”

The CDC recommends that everyone, whether vaccinated or not, wear masks at school.

What does the Delta variant mean for the future of the pandemic?

The Delta variant could be another roadblock in our fight to end the pandemic, which is why everyone must get vaccinated—for their own safety and for the safety of their community. “Vaccination is the strongest defense we have against COVID-19,” says Dr. Cunningham. “The United States has given out more than 350 million doses of these vaccines. They are both safe and effective.

“The risk of not getting vaccinated is great. Every COVID-19 variant builds upon the previous one. The Delta variant is a variety of COVID-19 mutations brought together for the first time, which is scary. If people remain unvaccinated, that provides more opportunities for the variants to mutate even more, until they mutate so much that they’re completely resistant to the vaccines. If we get to that point, it will be a huge setback.”

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Dr. Dennis Cunningham is the medical director of infection control and prevention at Henry Ford Health System.  

Categories: FeelWell