Why the COVID-19 Delta Variant is Making News; What You Need to Know
If you have read any of the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic, you have surely heard about the concerning delta variant. This variant is rapidly spreading throughout the globe, hitting places that had previously been in a good place in fighting back the virus. Here is what you need to know about the delta variant and how it may slow down the recovery process in the US and beyond.
Delta Variant History
The delta variant was first identified in India. It quickly spread throughout the country before making its way through the rest of the globe. This particular variant has now been detected in at least 80 countries. In addition to blazing through India, the variant is also responsible for a concerning surge of cases in the UK. Experts now estimate that 90% of all new cases in the UK are at the hands of the delta variant.
Delta Variant in the US and the Concerns it Raises
The latest estimates show that the delta variant is now responsible for about 25% of all new cases in the US. The variant has been identified in all 50 states. Some regions are showing an even higher infiltration of the variant. The areas most susceptible to a surge in cases are those places that do not have high vaccination rates in general. Most experts believe that the delta variant will become the dominant strain in the US within a matter of weeks.
One of the most concerning aspects of the delta variant is its contagiousness. This strain has been demonstrated to be far more contagious than previous variants. In addition, this particular variant may also cause more severe disease. This is especially true for individuals who have a compromised immune system.
Recent studies show that the delta variant is leading to more hospitalizations when compared to past strains of the virus.
Who is Most at Risk
You do not need a medical degree to understand that the people that are the most at risk of contracting the delta variant are those that are unvaccinated. Because the overwhelming majority of elderly Americans are fully vaccinated, the variant is primarily spreading through the younger populations. The majority of people who are being hospitalized because of this variant are those that have not been vaccinated.
Delta Plus Variant
In recent weeks, there has been talk of the delta plus variant. This version of the original delta variant was first announced by medical professionals in India in late June. Indian authorities went on alert when they began noticing this variation circulating in its population. At this point, the mutation does not seem to be severe enough to warrant an overreaction. However, health officials will continue to monitor this mutation to see how it progresses.
Vaccine Effectiveness and the Delta Variant
The good news is that the current vaccines seem to be generally holding up to this more severe variant. However, the effectiveness may hinge upon what particular vaccine you received. Studies from Pfizer demonstrate that its vaccine is 88% effective at preventing the symptomatic disease from this extremely contagious variant after two doses.
Updated Mask Guidance?
As a result of the concern over this new variant, some US health officials are calling for updated mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Medical professionals caution that unvaccinated children and adults should still continue to wear masks indoors. Because children under the age of 12 have not been able to receive the vaccine yet, they are particularly vulnerable to the delta variant.
Continuing to wear masks and practice social distancing is especially important in areas that have not seen high vaccination rates. According to the CDC, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Wyoming all have vaccination rates under 35% of their total population. Conversely, over 60% of the total population has been vaccinated in the northeastern states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
Health officials caution that the biggest lesson gleaned from the emerging research about the delta variant is that vaccination continues to be the best protection against the virus.
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