What is the “Delta variant” you have been hearing so much about in the news? All living organisms have the capacity to mutate for survival and some more than others. Mutation is one of the key biologic mechanisms used by microorganisms for their survival.
Sars-CoV-2 was the original virus that came out of Wuhan, China that caused the pandemic and as the virus spread through the world’s population mutations of the virus were inevitable. The more that a virus can multiply through a population, the greater the likelihood advantageous mutations will occur that allow the virus to survive.
We were all aware from news headlines that with inadequate vaccines, India was overtaken by the Covid-19 pandemic, and unfortunately this is how the Delta variant evolved.
The characteristic of the Delta variant is that it spreads more aggressively than the original Sars-CoV-2. The viral load measured in those who get this virus is higher than the original virus as determined from current assays taken when testing for the virus in infected people.
This may be why the virus is spreading faster and is a reason why the proper wearing of masks regrettably may be considered the best first line of defense again. We must keep in mind that the coronavirus family, which is also recognized for the cause of the common cold, is known for a high rate of mutation. This is why it may persist in our population for some time.
As we live with this continuing problem, the necessity to be able to provide rapid viral testing is becoming more and more evident. Robust testing capability to identify and isolate carriers will prevent an uncontrollable rate of spread and likelihood of another devastating total lockdown.
The overall symptoms of this infection in humans are not fully known as we continue to learn more. The symptoms of the disease appear to be about the same as Sars-CoV-2. It’s a respiratory infection causing anosmia, coughs, sore throat and perhaps a temperature—and for immune compromised or unvaccinated, the potential for life threatening respiratory failure and systemic inflammatory storms.
The variant seems to be more capable of infecting younger people than the original virus and has been known for most of the breakthrough infections of vaccinated people.
On a positive note, for those with previous immunity acquired through infection or vaccination, the infection does not usually lead to hospitalization; but this can not be said for previously non-infected, non-vaccinated individuals. The latter individuals are at higher risk of hospitalization and possibly death.
The takeaway message is we should continue to campaign for vaccination of those who have not been infected because they are at greatest risk, and further we should make testing for Covid-19 as easily available as possible so carriers are more likely to be identified and self isolated.
Robert Shorey, D.D.S.