The Delta COVID variant named Delta Plus has already led to severe jitters across the world. There is now an ongoing discussion globally regarding possible Delta COVID variant symptoms and other Delta COVID variant causes. Of course, research is continuing regarding Delta COVID variant treatments as well. The basic precautions regarding combating the Delta Plus variant remain the same, i.e. wearing masks at all times, adhering to all safety protocols and regulations, maintaining distancing, washing hands and staying away from crowded places. If there are any initial symptoms of COVID, then people are advised to consult the local GP immediately. They are also expected to adhere to the isolation and prevention protocols.
Where was the variant detected first?
The variant was first discovered in Europe in March 2021. It was, however, introduced into the public domain only on the 13th of June, 2021. As per scientists, the Delta variant or B.1.617.2 has already mutated further for creating the Delta Plus or AY.1 variant. Virologists are now studying whether this new Delta Plus variant will be able to bypass any earlier immunity even better than either Beta or Delta.
What does the world know till now?
Based on studies and whatever is known to date, Delta Plus is regarded as strongly infectious, and concern is growing in several quarters post expert warnings regarding Delta Plus showing better resistance against monoclonal antibodies cocktail treatments, including the Cipla and Roche treatments marketed in India and other parts of the world. A potential risk that has given rise to discomfort in the medical circuit is that the Delta Plus variant may possibly bypass immunity given by both previous infections and vaccines.
There is still no conclusive proof regarding the variant having higher transmissibility than other variants as per leading virologist Professor Shahid Jameel, who is also an ex-INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia) member. Delta Plus is a cause for anxiety, according to Jameel, whether it can combat pre-existing immunity even better than previous variants, but there is nothing to panic about till now.
Will Delta Plus be more infectious?
Delta Plus contains the K417N mutation, which was first seen in the Beta variant in South Africa. This, added to the fact that it had all other attributes of the Delta predecessor, may contribute towards making the latest Delta Plus variant more transmissible as per several scientists and leading experts. The K417N mutation lies within the receptor-binding domain of spike protein and this change is important since the mutation is also contained in the B.1.351 or the Beta variant, which is concerning as per Professor Jameel. The combination of attributes from previous and other variants may lead to Delta Plus adapting strongly towards escaping the shield of immunity.
Is the situation concerning?
The World Health Organization has already declared the Delta variant as a variant of concern back in May 2021. The designation is given when there is stronger evidence of a variant being more transmissible or causing more severe illnesses and infections, or reducing the overall effectiveness of treatments and vaccines. The CDC also classified Delta as a variant of concern in the U.S. on the 15th of June, 2021.
Research indicates that Delta or B.1.617.2 is the most infectious or contagious of all variants that are known to date, including the alpha variant identified in Britain that was hugely transmissible. UK public health officials, for instance, have stated that Delta comprises more than 95% of new coronavirus cases and indicated that the variant maybe 40-60% more transmissible than the previous alpha variant, although studies are still going on to this effect.
Epidemiologists usually follow the secondary attack rate while working out the transmissibility of any new virus variant. This covers monitoring the close contacts of individuals infected with various versions of the same virus and tracking how many of them tested positive. Dr David Dowdy, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, states that suppose 10 individuals have 20 such contacts. With a single variant, you will possibly witness 5 such contacts getting infected. If the second variant has 50% higher transmissibility, then the figure will also be 50% more. Hence, there will be 7.5 of close contacts infected after taking into account whether they had infections previously or have received the vaccination.
Considerable research is still required, although a study on 14th June 2021, in The Lancet, analysed the Delta variant’s impact in Scotland, where it had transformed into the predominant coronavirus strain. Researchers discovered that hospitalisation risks from coronavirus doubled for patients who were infected with the Delta variant strain as compared to those infected with the alpha variant. The latter or UK variant and now the Delta variant differs by way of overall transmissibility along with the potential for future dangerous outcomes as per internal medicine physician at Naples, Florida, Dr Alejandro Perez-Trepichio. UK researchers have already highlighted symptom shifts possibly tied to the Delta variant. The commonest symptoms are low fever, runny nose, sore throat and headache, which are also observed in case of colds. Lung trouble, cough and shortness of breath are still common COVID-19 symptoms, although higher complaints are now being reported of upper respiratory issues with recurrent infections.
Where is the variant spreading?
The Delta variant has already been reported in 95+ global countries as per the WHO. Cases have escalated for every country where the variant has spread. All 50 U.S. States have confirmed Delta cases, while it is riskier in parts with lower rates of vaccinations. The variant has been seen causing outbreaks in Australian cities such as Sydney and Brisbane as well. Both cities have imposed stringent lockdowns for curbing its spread. Bangladesh also came up with a strict nationwide stay-at-home regulation after a spike in infections. South Africa imposed a night curfew, and travel restrictions were imposed in Germany, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Flights will be limited from areas where the Delta variant has spread already.
Will vaccines work?
Vaccines still remain the most effective precaution against the Delta variant. Vaccines used globally will reportedly offer effective safety against this variant, and fully vaccinated people will still have comparatively lower risks, as per scientists. Moderna has announced vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant based on studies, blood samples from vaccinated individuals, and protective antibodies produced against the Delta variant. Results have been positive for the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines alike. Public Health England had a study released on 14th June 2021, which found two doses of a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine being 96% effective against any hospitalisation owing to the Delta variant. Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were 92% effective as per this study.
A single vaccine dose may be less effective against any symptomatic ailments caused due to the Delta variant. Israel has seen cases going up due to the Delta variant, and 60% of the population is vaccinated already, ensuring that hospitalisations did not increase as rapidly. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also offers good protection against the variant, as per reports.