This week, the CDC recently deemed the Delta variant, first identified in India, a "variant of concern," revealing that it is quickly becoming the dominant strain of COVID-19. Many experts—including Dr. Anthony Fauci and former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb—worry that it has the potential to provoke a new COVID surge, after months of declining infections, hospitalizations and deaths. F. Perry Wilson, MD, Yale Medicine physician and researcher at Yale School of Medicine, explains why he too is concerned about B.1.617.2. Read on to hear what he has to say—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.
It Is "More Transmissible" Than Other Variants
Dr. Wilson explains that there are three important factors to consider when analyzing a new variant. "The first, and really most important, is transmissibility," he reveals, noting that "slight increases in transmissibility lead to exponential increases in the number of cases, because of the compounding effect of infections—one person leads to more people and leads to more people and so on."
Unfortunately, "Delta is clearly more transmissible than the original coronavirus strain, and appears to be even more transmissible than Alpha (B.1.1.7), the UK strain that was 50% more transmissible than the first strain," he points out. "This is bad news and means that we could see a sharp uptick in cases. This is already being seen in the UK where the vast majority of new cases are due to Delta."
It Might Make You "More Sick" Than Other Variants
Dr. Wilson points out that another consideration is pathogenicity, "or how sick the variant makes you." While there still isn't a lot of data yet, "hospitalization rates seem to be higher in the UK with Delta than with other variants, but that has not (yet) translated into higher death rates," he points out. "That said, deaths tend to lag so I am still concerned. And of course, illness severe enough to require hospitalization, even if you survive, is no picnic and can have long-term consequences."
Immunity From Vaccine May Not Be As Strong As the Other Variants
The third issue is whether the variant can break through existing immunity, "either in the context of a prior covid infection or vaccination," Dr. Wilson notes, pointing out that it can get complicated because different vaccines have different protection against different variants.
"That said, the data so far suggests that the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) provide excellent protection against Delta (Pfizer looks like 88% protection from symptoms, 95% from hospitalization) which are stellar numbers," he points out, adding that there is not as much data on the other vaccines. However, "the protection after a single dose of these two-dose vaccines does not seem as strong as it did for the original virus, meaning we really need people to continue to mask/distance themselves until they are well and truly two weeks out from the second dose," he suggests.
Keep Protecting Yourself and Others
So follow Fauci's fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.