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CareSouth Carolina is actively monitoring the spread of COVID-19, in particular the COVID-19 B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant that is becoming more prominent in spread across the nation.
The Delta variant was first identified in India and carries a higher rate of transmission and a greater chance of severe disease than other COVID-19 variants.
The South Carolina Department of Health & Environment Control (SC-DHEC) announced earlier this week that there were 54 confirmed cases of the Delta variant in the state.
As with other variants, complete vaccination is the number one way to stifle the impact of the Delta variant. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are approximately 33 percent effective against the Delta variant if a person has only received one of the two doses of the shots but 88 percent effective if a person has received both doses of the vaccine.
Here are a few things to know about the Delta variant, according to Yale Medicine:
1. Delta is more contagious than the other virus strains.
The first Delta case was identified in December 2020, and the strain spread rapidly, soon becoming the dominant strain of the virus in both India and then Great Britain. Toward the end of June, Delta had already made up more than 20% of cases in the U.S., according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates. By the end of July, Delta was the cause of more than 80% of new U.S. COVID-19 cases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called this version of the virus “the fastest and fittest.”
2. Unvaccinated people are at risk.
People who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are most at risk.
In the U.S., there is a disproportionate number of unvaccinated people in Southern and Appalachian states including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, and West Virginia, where vaccination rates are low. Kids and young people are a concern as well
3. There is still more to learn about Delta.
One important question is whether the Delta strain will make you sicker than the original virus. Early information about the severity of Delta included a study from Scotland that showed the Delta variant was about twice as likely as Alpha to result in hospitalization in unvaccinated individuals, but other data has shown no significant difference. The information could change as experts learn more.
Another question focuses on how Delta affects the body. There have been reports of symptoms that are different than those associated with the original coronavirus strain
It’s unclear whether Delta could cause more breakthrough cases—infections in people who have been vaccinated or have natural immunity from a prior COVID-19 infection, which so far have been rare in general.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease and 96% effective against hospitalization from Delta in the studies, while Oxford-AstraZeneca (which is not an mRNA vaccine) was 60% effective against symptomatic disease and 93% effective against hospitalization. The studies tracked participants who were fully vaccinated with both recommended doses.
Moderna has also reported on studies (not yet peer-reviewed) that showed its vaccine to be effective against Delta and several other mutations (researchers noted only a ”modest reduction in neutralizing titers” against Delta when compared to its effectiveness against the original virus). Johnson & Johnson also has reported that its vaccine is effective against the Delta variant, showing only a small drop in potency compared with its effectiveness against the original strain of the virus. (Although one recent study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, suggests that the J&J vaccine is less effective against Delta.)
4. Vaccination is the best protection against Delta.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from Delta is to get fully vaccinated, the doctors say. That means if you get a two-dose vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna, for example, you must get both shots and then wait the recommended two-week period for those shots to take full effect. Whether or not you are vaccinated, it’s also important to follow CDC prevention guidelines that are available for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.