Everything you need to know about Covid-19 Delta variant

The bottom line is to get vaccinated and resume wearing masks for protection against this fast spreader

By Dr. Shivaraj Nagalli

SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19 has been mutating ever since its first detection. A mutation, spontaneous change in genetic code, can lead to variations in the appearance and behavior of the viruses.

Hence these variants can potentially escape detection and find new ways to infect and spread. Such mutations have led to the development of several variants of SARS- CoV-2 worldwide.

Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351), Gamma (P.1), and Delta (B.1.617.2) were first reported in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Japan/Brazil, and India respectively.

Out of all these variants, the one which is of particular interest is the Delta variant. Studies have found that it’s capable of spreading infection faster. Infection with Delta variants is also seen in fully vaccinated individuals.

More than 800 cases were linked to the July 4th celebration in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and about 3/4th of these infections were seen in vaccinated individuals.

Read: Delta variant ‘more transmissible and dangerous’, says Vivek Murthy (June 25, 2021)

Not just this, the vaccinated individuals who were infected had comparable viral loads with those of unvaccinated and were capable of transmitting the virus to others.

Due to this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently guided the public to wear masks indoors too irrespective of vaccination status.

Further Delta-plus variants have also been reported in the US, UK, India and now in South Korea. One of these Delta-plus variants has a K417N mutation that causes changes in the spike glycoprotein and is apparently associated with resistance to monoclonal antibody therapy.

According to CDC’s Covid data tracker, as of July 31, 2021, more than 80% of cases diagnosed with Covid-19 infection were due to the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant.

Most of these infections however are seen in unvaccinated individuals. This signifies that the currently available Covid-19 vaccines offer at least some sort of protection against this Delta variant in terms of preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths.

Further studies are however needed to evaluate the true effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines against this delta variant and if a booster dose is needed to protect against this.

The bottom line is to get vaccinated, resume wearing masks which would protect the children, and immunocompromised.

(Dr. Shivaraj Nagalli is an internal medicine physician and hospitalist at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, Alabaster, Alabama)

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