With widespread vaccination and SOPs in place, many of us were starting to relax about the pandemic. However, when news about the Delta variant—a highly contagious SARSCoV-2 virus strain was announced, it sent many of us back into fear mode. Dr. Baljinder Singh, Head of the Emergency Department clarifies the facts about this variant and how we can take precaution.
Delta is described by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as more transmissible than the common cold and influenza, in addition to the viruses that trigger MERS, SARS, and Ebola. Dr. Singh explains, “Delta is the name given to the COVID-19 variant that was first detected in India in December 2020. It is believed to be 50 to 60 percent more infectious than the original and Alpha strain, as per British Authorities.”
According to Dr. Singh, the Delta variant may have slightly different symptoms as compared to the original strain and the Alpha variant because people may have antibodies from a previous infection or vaccination and due to the mutation of the virus. “This variant has proven to be more easily transmissible,” he says, and in fact, the Deltavariant COVID -19 has more of the common-cold like symptoms, including sorethroat, sneezing, and fever, but cough and loss of smell are not that common. A headache and runny nose are common, he tells, and people may think they have a common cold with headache and not COVID, thereby unknowingly spreading the infection. Other symptoms include hearing impairment, gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and blood clots.
The Delta variant is more worrisome because the viral load is around one thousand times higher than previous variants as per a Chinese study, points out Dr. Singh. “There is around 35 percent increase in hospitalizations due to the Delta variant in the US as per the CDC and the majority of the hospitalizations and COVID-19 related deaths are occurring in the unvaccinated people.” Protection from COVID-19 infection is the same and includes following proper hand hygiene, wearing masks in crowded spaces, and keeping safe distances. Seeking medical advice if any symptoms arise and to go for full vaccination as per your local medical guidelines.
Screening and treatment
There is no special test for the Delta variant and the COVID PCR test is still used to test, he says, but the positive COVID PCR tests can undergo genetic analysis that can confirm if it is the Delta variant.
The treatment is the same regardless of the infectious variant. “Mild to moderate infections are managed at home with symptomatic treatment and severe infections require hospitalization,” he says, with certain antivirals and monoclonal antibody medications administered for moderate to severe infections along with corticosteroids, anti thrombotics, high-flow oxygen, and ventilation. H