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What is the Delta Variant? Everything you need to know

Author: Dr. Rohini R https://doctorrohini.com

Everything you need to know about the delta variant of the coronavirus. What is The Delta Variant? Are the Vaccines effective against the Delta Variant? What are the Symptoms of the Delta Variant? How is the Delta Variant Treated?

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The delta variant, also called the B. 1. 617 is a mutant strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19) which was first detected in 2019 and resulted in the global pandemic. The delta variant, was first detected in India last year, which has since spread to dozens of other countries, and is now the dominant strain in many countries . The Delta variant has several lineages with different sets of mutations, one of them being the B. 1.617.2 strain which is also now the dominant coronavirus variant in the United Kingdom.

Studies have shown the delta variant is 50 percent more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus, with a higher risk of complications and hospitalisation, making the delta variant a serious concern. 

Those infected by the the delta variant have presented with symptoms that slightly vary from those seen by people who contracted the original virus, however there is very little research data available on this. The most common initial symptoms of the delta variant have found to be fever, sore throat, runny nose and headache, without the presence of the characteristic signs of the original COVID-19 virus, such as loss of smell and taste. Hence it is important to recognise the symptoms and get tested early.

Testing for the Delta variant: Variants may not show up on regular COVID tests. Testing for variants requires genomic sequencing, which not all labs can do and it can be expensive.

Are the Vaccines Effective Against the Delta Variant?

Pfizer vaccine: 

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was found to be 36 percent effective against symptomatic disease caused by the delta variant after the first dose and 88 percent effective after the second dose. In terms of hospitalisation, the Pfizer vaccine was found to be 94 percent effective in preventing hospitalisation  after the first dose and 96 percent effective after the second dose.  

Mederna vaccine:

Moderna vaccine uses the same technology as Pfizer, hence researchers believe it would provide similar protection as Pfizer. 

AstraZeneca vaccine:

The AstraZeneca vaccine was found to be 60 percent effective against symptomatic disease caused by the delta variant and 92 percent effective against complications and hospitalization after both doses. This vaccine is available in India as Covishield.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine:

This is a single shot vaccine. A study based on laboratory tests showed that the vaccine had a diminished immune response to the delta variant. However some studies suggest that it can provide effective protection against the delta variant for months after vaccination. Some researchers believe the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would provide similar results to the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of The Delta Variant?

On an average it may take 5 to 6 days for the symptoms to appear after getting infected with the virus, however the range can vary from 1 to 14 days. Most common initial symptoms of the delta variant have found to be fever, sore throat, runny nose and headache, without the presence of the characteristic signs of the original COVID-19 virus, such as loss of smell and taste. Some signs and symptoms of the delta variant (some overlap with the original Covid-19 virus).

Most common symptoms of the delta variant include:

  • Fever: 100 F or higher
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms include:

  • Body aches and pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Mucus/phlegm
  • Sore throat
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Headache
  • Nasal congestion
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Skin rash or discoloration of fingers or toes

    Serious symptoms include:
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • Persistent chest pain or pressure in the chest 
  • Loss of speech or movement
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • High temperature
  • Bluish lips or face 

Some rare symptoms include:

  • Severe neurological complications such as delirium, brain inflammation, stroke and nerve damage.
  • Reduced consciousness associated with seizures

How Does Coronavirus Spread?

Some of the ways in which the virus can spreads include:

  • The virus spreads primarily through droplets of discharge from the nose or saliva when an infected person coughs or sneezes and the droplets are inhaled by a nearby person.  The virus spreads between people in close contact within 6 feet or 2 meters. 
  • Sometimes the  virus can spread to a person exposed to small droplets or aerosols that stay in the air for several minutes or hours. 
  • The virus can also spread if a person touches a surface or object with the virus on it and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes.

How is the Delta Variant Treated? 

There are no specific treatments for COVID-19, including the delta variant.  Scientists are working on developing treatments and many clinical trials are under way.  Hence it is advised to take precautions by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, maintain social distance and hygiene. 

People with mild COVID-19 can ease their symptoms with sufficient rest and medicines prescribed by a doctor.  Antibiotics won’t help because they help treat bacterial infection and not viral infection.  Using self-medication is not advisable to prevent or cure COVID-19.

Supportive care includes oxygen for severely ill patients and respiratory support such as ventilation for patients who are critically ill.  

Research has shown that the use of hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, lopinavir, ritonavir and interferon have little or no effect in treating COVID-19.

A variety of steroid medications including dexamethasone are being used to treat, which has been found to reduce the risk of death, however studies on their effectiveness are still being conducted. 

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