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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: the Delta Variant

Virus Outbreak-US
Posted at 1:44 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 14:44:31-04

The Delta variant has become the dominant strain in the latest rise in COVID cases. Nationwide, states and local hospitals are once again being overwhelmed.

Dr. Jennifer Rudd from the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Not onle does she teach veterinary students about infectious diseases, but she is also active in COVID-19 research.

These are five things that Dr. Rudd wants Green Country to know about the Delta variant:

1. Delta spreads faster.

The Delta variant of COVID-19 emerged from India in late 2020 and has spread across the globe like wildfire by out-competing other variants worldwide.

How did it do this? While the exact mechanism is still being studied, this variant tweaked its outer spike protein to better bind to and infect our cells than it ever has before.

People infected with the Delta variant have over 1,000 times more viruses in their cells than the original strain, making the strain spread sooner after exposure than ever before and with much higher amounts of virus, resulting in rapid spread from person to person.

2. The symptoms may be a little different.

Gone are the days where the loss of smell was a go-to symptom for COVID-19. Common signs of the Delta variant include:

  • headache
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • a sore throat

Sounds a lot like allergies or a cold, but that's what makes it problematic. Many people will assume it’s “not COVID” and continue their lives while shedding large amounts of virus to others.

Unfortunately, many will still end up hospitalized since the inflammatory damage from COVID is far more severe than that in allergies or a cold. Coughing, fever, and loss of smell or taste are all still possible, just not a hallmark sign in every case. So please get tested frequently.

3. Delta isn’t necessarily more severe in kids — but it is more transmissible.

We don’t yet know if the Delta variant causes more severe disease in kids than the previous strains, but we do know it spreads through unvaccinated people, including children, rapidly.

The vast majority of kids that are infected with the Delta variant will not experience severe illness, but as we see the numbers go up, we will naturally see more children who are hospitalized or have long-term complications from COVID-19.

4. Your vaccine is working.

After over a year into a global pandemic, Tulsans can appreciate that healthcare workers and other's public health choices have continued to keep us sane.

One of the ways to continue helping is best achieved through vaccination. The available vaccines are safe, well-studied, and remain effective.

As new variants emerge, the ability of the vaccine to prevent infection does drop a little.

For example, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was originally 99% effective at preventing severe disease, then dropped to 93% effective with the Alpha variant, and currently sits around 88% with the Delta variant.

Here’s the thing though: 88% is still very good. Breakthrough infections among the vaccinated remain rare and disease in these instances often remains mild. This vaccine is worth it.

5. We need you to make good choices.

The choices we make this fall will be a little different depending on our families, communities, and lifestyle. I know we all have decision fatigue, but we need to think critically just a little bit longer.

There will be settings where masking remains appropriate regardless of vaccine status — especially in large indoor crowds. There will be events that may not be worth the risk to you or your family depending on vaccine status and your health.

Most importantly, if you are eligible for COVID vaccination but have not received it, please get any lingering questions answered and make the choice to get vaccinated.

We are truly fighting a pandemic of the unvaccinated at this point. This includes people who could be vaccinated but are choosing not to, children who are not yet eligible, and indirectly includes immune-compromised people who may be able to be vaccinated but will not have a protective immune response to the vaccine.

Getting vaccinated is the biggest gift you can give our children and our community this fall.

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