Lately we’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the delta variant of COVID-19, and there is, as with the virus in general, a lot of misinformation being spread around. We spoke to Dr Nawal Salahuddin*, a pulmonologist in Karachi, to find out the facts about this mutation of the coronavirus. Keep scrolling to read her answers to some frequently asked questions:
What Is The Delta Variant?
Just how humans evolve over time, viruses do the same. The delta variant is an evolved mutation of the original coronavirus (alpha variant) which originated in India. Dr Nawal says that it is more infectious than the alpha variant of COVID, and is more contagious. However, the CDC has labelled the delta variant the “Pandemic of the Unvaccinated,” where being vaccinated can be a major help in tackling the virus.
What Are The Symptoms Of The Delta Variant Of COVID-19?
Dr Nawal explains that the symptoms of the delta variant and alpha variant are typically the same. The main difference is that the reported loss of sense of smell is not as common in cases of the delta variant. Other than that, the flu-like symptoms (runny nose, cough etc.) remain the same.
Can I Still Get The Delta Variant Of The Virus If I’m Vaccinated?
Yes. The primary function of the vaccine is to reduce chances of severe symptoms and death by coronavirus. Dr Nawal says that anybody who is vaccinated is protected from severe disease, hospitalisation and death. It is crucial in maintaining your health as best as possible and preventing death and extreme sickness. (PS – please get vaccinated! It’s worth it!)
Is One Vaccine Better Than Another In Fighting The Delta Variant?
The professional explains that this is not true – anybody who is vaccinated (no particular vaccine) is protected from severity when fighting the virus. She says that all vaccines do roughly the same thing, and that the main noticeable difference will come if you are not vaccinated, or not fully vaccinated.
Will The Delta Variant Of COVID-19 Make Me More Sick Than The Original One?
According to Dr Nawal, you are more likely to get sick from contracting the delta variant of COVID as opposed to the alpha. If you are vaccinated, she explains, the symptoms won’t be very bad at all. So, while the intensity of the symptoms may not be that different, it is much easier to actually experience symptoms if you have delta.
Do The Same General Precautions And SOP’s Apply For Avoiding The Delta Variant?
The general precautions for all strains of the coronavirus are the same. However, the doctor explains that the delta variant causes the virus to linger in your body for a longer period. This means that even if you are done with your COVID course, it is possible that you are still a carrier of the virus. Keeping this in mind, she advises that you take wearing a mask more seriously in such situations.
Who Is Most Likely To Be Affected By The Delta Variant Of COVID-19?
Dr Nawal says that the susceptibility of this strain of the virus is the same as the others. So, severe disease or symptoms are likely to be more prominent in older people, those with blood pressure problems, smokers, and others at higher risk of the original coronavirus.
Does The Delta Variant Spread Faster Than The Alpha Variant?
To an extent. The delta variant is more contagious, but ultimately it comes down to how people behave. If they are not careful, not wearing masks and/or having parties or other big gatherings, that will be the prime cause of spread of the virus. This would be the same for any strain of COVID-19.
*Dr Nawal Salahuddin currently works as a professor in Pulmonary and Critical Care at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases. She was previously an associate professor at Aga Khan University Hospital. She is a specialist in critical care and pulmonology with over 30 years of experience in the medical field.