Understanding the Delta Variant
Since the start of COVID, there has been a shortage of understanding of the pandemic.
We’ve had confusion, misinformation, repeated updates, reversals and revisions of recommendations, etc.
This understanding deficit has continued with the rise of the delta variant. I’ve been hard-pressed to find solid, actionable information myself. For you, it may have been all but impossible.
So when I found this article, I was excited to see all the current and essential information compressed into a single piece, written by Dr. J. Stacey Klutts, who is “Special Assistant to the National Director of Pathology and Lab Medicine for the entire Veterans Affairs system, with a specific role in advising on elements of COVID testing for the system.”
You may read the original article if you like, but I’ve pulled out the highlights that you need to know in this post in case you don’t have the time (or stomach) to read the full article.
Why Delta is YOUR Problem
When a disease has “high or substantial community spread” in over 90% of the counties in the US, you’ll need to pay attention and take action.
Delta is so contagious that you are highly likely to get sick, vaccinated or not unless you understand how to avoid it and take effective, consistent, and long-term actions.
Getting sick with Delta is equal-opportunity. Kids, infants, teens, young adults, middle-aged and the elderly are all contracting this variant in huge numbers.
And no, you really, really don’t want to get sick with this disease.
1: Delta is stickier and much more effective in attaching to and gaining entry into human cells. “If the original COVID strains were covered in syrup, this variant is covered in ultrafast-drying Gorilla Super Glue (industrial strength).”
2: Delta has 1,000 times the “viral load” (number of particles that can “shed” and make others sick) than previous variants.
3: Delta is SO much more contagious than previous COVID that it’s an entirely different pandemic event. “R0” (pronounced “R aught”) is the measurement of how infectious a disease is. An R2 means that one infected person is likely to infect two others. Original COVID was about an R2. Delta is an R6.5 – R8. “In the infectious disease world, that’s almost unheard of. Chickenpox and measles are about all we have ever seen that spread that efficiently from human to human. This changes the storyline completely from earlier in the pandemic.”
4: Delta can spread through vaccinated people. But much less efficiently. Here’s a great explanation of this, which is one of those areas I’ve had difficulty finding good information about:
Take Away: A vaccinated person can become infected fairly easily with Delta (the vaccine does provide some protection against infection), but the person is only is infectious for a couple of days afterward.
Why this is true lies in the different types of COVID antibodies that your body uses to fight the disease. The antibody called “IgA” prevents the virus from ever binding to your cells in the first place. The “IgG” antibody is triggered when the virus is detected by your body and prevents you from becoming very ill or ill at all.
ALL COVID VACCINES CAUSE YOUR BODY TO PRODUCE IgG ANTIBODIES, NOT IgA.
Therefore, if vaccinated, you can become infected almost as fast as the nonvaccinated person standing next to you, but you are MUCH less likely to get sick, or at least very sick.
Where things change is in HOW LONG you are contagious to others.
For the first few days, you are JUST AS CONTAGIOUS AS A NONVACCINATED PERSON. Then, the IgG antibodies from the vaccination kick in and wipe out the virus, and you’re no longer contagious.
A nonvaccinated person continues to be contagious for at least ten days from the first symptoms.
Take away: If you’re vaccinated and get COVID, you will be contagious for only a couple of days, and you are extremely unlikely to go to the hospital or die. Currently, less than 5% of COVID hospitalizations are vaccinated.
5: Original COVID largely spared young people and small children, but not Delta. Children’s hospitals are starting to fill up.
What to Do:
- Really, seriously consider getting vaccinated. Here are references that I’ve been giving to my patients to do their research when they’re worried about the vaccine:
Wear a mask indoors with anyone not in your family and outdoors in any crowd. Delta has been documented to be passed between two people who simply walked past each other.
Queensland’s chief health officer, Jeannette Young quote: “with the Delta variant, we’re seeing very fleeting contact leading to transmission. At the start of this pandemic, I spoke about 15 minutes of close contact being a concern. Now it looks like it’s five to 10 seconds that’s a concern. The risk is so much higher now than it was only a year ago.”
- Wash or sanitize your hands
- Avoid crowds, especially indoors, even with a mask.
- Boost your immune system to improve your outcome if you do get sick.
- Get tested before doing anything where you could pass COVID to someone else. Here are some home tests, and a link to make an appointment (free) for a drive-through test in Georgia:
- Walmart Test: https://www.walmart.com/ip/BinaxNOW-COVID-19-Antigen-Self-Test-2-Tests/142089281
- Target Test: https://www.target.com/p/ellume-covid-19-rapid-antigen-home-test/-/A-83685429
- Georgia drive-through test signup: https://viralsolutionsga.com/
I hope this helps. Maybe next week I can find a more uplifting subject to write about, but I feel that this is critically important information for you to have.
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