The Delta variant of SARS-Cov-2 is right now the most famous variant of the monstrosity that shook the world in 2019. Officially termed as B.1.617.2, this variant was first identified in India in October 2020. Since December 2020 it has been the dominant strain of corona viruses that devastated the masses in India and parts of Great Britain. The World Health Organization (WHO) has referred to it as the “fastest” and “fittest” version of SARS-Cov-2.
What is unique about it?
Studies all around the world have concluded the Delta variant to be the most contagious version of corona viruses. It holds a 40% greater transmissibility rate than the earlier variants (Alpha, Beta) with twice the risk of hospitalization. Yale doctor and Professor Francis Wilson stated that the Delta variant spreads from “1 person to maybe 3.5 or 4 other people”. On 7th July, a study was conducted by the Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, China. It found that patients’ respiratory tracts infected with the Delta variant had significantly greater amounts of the virus than those infected with earlier variants.
The greater transmission of the delta variant is in part due its ability to evade the immune system. It contains 13 mutations. 4 of these are in the spike protein. This is where the problem lies: the virus escapes antibodies because of its unique mutations in the epitopes that bind the host’s defensive molecules. These mutated spike proteins allow the virus to attach tightly to the host cells and replicate faster.
Symptoms – What to look out for
Surprisingly, there is no solid proof that Delta causes a more severe disease. Research and reports explain only the faster contagion rate, not the severity of symptoms. Although it has been found that cough and loss of smell are less common symptoms (opposite of the earlier variants). More data and study is needed to find conclusive evidence on this matter. The more common symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- High fever
- Runny nose
Who is safe & who isn’t
The good news is: if you’re vaccinated, you have nothing to worry about! Studies have shown that people vaccinated with Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, AstraZeneca and generally any vaccine have been safe from infection by the Delta variant. 2-dose vaccines have been more effective than 1-dose vaccines. Post-vaccination, there have been milder or little to no infections.
Unvaccinated people have a high risk of infection with the delta variant. It has been found that the most common cases of infection are in young people, the most being in the 20-29 age range, and then in the 3-19 age range.
Regions where vaccination rate is low have seen a rise in infection cases. In India, the 2nd wave is attributed to the Delta variant, which caused the massive outbreak in February and March, seeing daily 6-figure active cases and more than 3500 deaths every day. Only a small percentage of India’s population is fully vaccinated. Relaxation of precautions and disregard of SOPs is a big factor to weigh in on the frightening situation that plights India in recent days.
Situation in Pakistan
The Delta variant was first detected in Pakistan on 16th May. The National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) confirmed in May and June that several variants of SARS-Cov-2 have been found in Pakistan. These include the alpha, beta and delta variants. So far the active cases of the Delta variant have been low, all of whom are people who came to Pakistan from Afghanistan, UK, and the Gulf countries. On 8th July, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation about Delta being the “biggest concern”. There looms the fear of Pakistan moving into a fourth wave of COVID-19. The PM urged the public to once again follow SOPs, wear masks when outside, and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.