- June 28, 2021
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What You Need To Know About The New Highly Contagious COVID-19 Delta Variant
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday that the delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations and in nations where COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.
At a briefing from the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Tedros said the delta variant was the most transmissible of the COVID-19 variants identified so far and had been detected in at least 85 countries with symptoms which include the following;
- “Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology
- Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation
- Decrease ineffectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.”
He said that while the global number of COVID-19 cases had been declining for eight straight weeks, the rate of decline had slowed. In Africa, the number of cases and deaths increased by almost 40%.
As some countries ease public health and social measures, virus transmission has increased around the world, Tedros said.
“More cases mean more hospitalizations, further stretching health workers and health systems, which increases the risk of death,” he said.
New variants emerge when mutations occur in the genetic code of the virus. When the Covid-19 coronavirus reproduces in the cells of your body, it can be similar to a drunk person hastily making photocopies of his or her bottom at the office. The virus can end up making various mistakes when replicating its genetic code. These “mistakes” are essentially mutations that can yield slightly different versions of the virus. Some of these mutations may make the virus weaker. Some may have little effect. Others may make the virus stronger like what has happened with the Delta variant.
Variants of any widespread virus are to be expected, Tedros said, because it is how viruses evolve. They can be prevented by stopping transmission, he said, which makes it even more urgent for people in areas with low vaccination rates to consistently follow public health measures and take advantage of effective vaccine programs.
That is why he has been stressing for the past year the importance of “vaccine equity,” along with protecting health workers and the most vulnerable, he said. The lack of vaccine in the world’s poorest nations is creating what he calls “a two-track pandemic.”
“Those who have vaccines are getting better significantly, and they’re opening up their society,” Tedros said. “Those who don’t have vaccines are facing serious COVID situations with serious surges in cases and deaths due to COVID. That’s the reality now.”
There’s also the concern that the Delta variant may be more adept at attacking your lung cells. This is bad news for not only your lung cells but you as well. After all, unless something had gone horribly wrong, you and your lung cells are attached. As a result, the Delta variant may be more likely than other versions of the virus to make you more ill.
A June 11 report from Public Health England indicated that “early data from both England and Scotland demonstrate an increased risk of hospitalization with Delta compared to Alpha.
Another concern is how well the existing Covid-19 vaccines may protect against the Delta variant. A study from Public Health England suggests that Covid-19 vaccines maybe a little less effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 from the Delta variant versus such disease from the alpha variant.
During the study period, April 5 to May 16, the difference for two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was an 88% effectiveness against the Delta variant versus 93% against the Alpha variant. For the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the numbers were 60% versus 66%.
The WHO has already applied the “variant of concern” label to the original Delta variant, otherwise known as the B.1.617.2 variant if you prefer using a name that looks like an incomplete Boston-area phone number. The Delta Plus variant has a similar alternative name as well: the B.1.617.2.1 variant, which looks like someone managed to dial one more digit. Then there’s the Sopranos-esque name for the Delta Plus variant: the AY.1 variant.