DELTA VARIANT: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS VARIANT
The pandemic has affected billions of lives globally. There’s hardly a part of the world that has been left untouched by the SARS-Cov2 virus. One thing about viruses is that they keep mutating. The only way to curb and eventually stop their spread is vaccination. Multiple variants have been reported since the first outbreak in December 2019. The strains’ scientific names can be difficult to remember and may cause inaccurate reporting. Moreover, they stigmatize and promote discrimination to the places of origin.
Therefore, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently adopted easy-to-say labels for COVID variants. The COVID-19 (B.1.1.7) variant is now called the Alpha variant, and the newly discovered COVID-19 (B.1.617.2) variant is the Delta variant. Let us know more about the Delta variant, its impact, and prevention.
What Is the Delta Variant?
COVID-19’s Delta variant is one causing extreme concern. It has been reported in over92 countries so far, causing unimaginable damage to lives and the economy. COVID-19 Delta variant is a variant of concern (VoC) that was detected initially in India and later spread to several European countries, the UK, and the USA. It transmits 55–60% quicker than the Alpha variant (which was around 50% more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain), making it the most concerning variant of COVID-19. This variant is not just highly contagious; it also escapes the immunity barriers to cause severe damage to the affected person.
One crucial characteristic of mutated variants is that they may cause different symptoms in the infected person. As per the data collected in the UK during its third wave of coronavirus, some common symptoms like fever, headache, and sore throat remained the same in infection caused by the Delta variant. However, in many cases, people had runny noses, which was not seen in earlier variants. Interestingly, loss of smell and cough, which were common in earlier variants, were reported by very few people infected by the Delta variant.
Is It Dangerous?
India first experienced the severity of the Delta variant when it faced the second wave of the pandemic in April–May 2021. The daily cases went up to four lakhs, while multitudes succumbed to the disease. WHO described the Delta variant as “faster and fitter” and warned that this dominant strain might cause rapid outbreaks globally, especially targeting the unvaccinated population.
While the Delta variant’s potency is not higher than the Alpha variant, its high transmission rate makes it very dangerous. The need for hospitalization is much higher, which puts tremendous pressure on the health infrastructure. In India and the UK, the number of cases doubled within a week, which caused a shortage of hospital beds, medical staff, and facilities.
Most Effective Vaccines against the Delta Variant
As soon as the Delta variant started causing havoc, there were concerns about the protection and efficacy promised by vaccines. Fortunately, experts have confirmed that most vaccines are effective against this highly transmissible variant.
However, it is critical to get both doses to protect yourself. A singular dose is less effective and requires the booster shot to offer full protection. This was established in recent outbreaks when even people who had taken the first dose got infected.
The vaccines effective against the Delta variant are:
- Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin – Two doses, four weeks apart
- Serum Institute of India’s Covishield licensed by AstraZeneca – Two doses, 12–16 weeks apart
- Russia’s Sputnik V – Single-dose
- Moderna – Two doses, four weeks apart
The chances of hospitalization for a fully vaccinated person (as per the dosage requirement) are 90–92% less than for those who are unvaccinated. Most vaccines can cause reactogenic side effects such as fever, tiredness, body ache, muscle or joint pains, and nausea, which go away in a couple of days. Studies are underway to determine if the booster dose is needed after a specific time.
Precautions against the Delta Variant
- Vaccination: Get vaccinated with whichever vaccine is available at your location as soon as possible. Those who have taken the first dose must not skip the second dose, otherwise, it increases the chances of infection.
- Mask up: Double-mask whenever you step out. Masks are the second-best protection after vaccinations and are key in curbing the spread.
- Maintain physical distance: WHO recommends maintaining a one-meter distance from others. Confined and enclosed places with poor ventilation are a significant reason for COVID-19’s spread, hence, avoid crowded places and functions at all costs.
- Cleanliness: Maintain hygiene by frequent hand washing and using hand sanitizers. Additionally, avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes as much as possible. While coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with your elbow.