COVID-19 Update: The Delta Variant



What we *think* we know about the Delta variant


The Delta variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the US, Texas and Austin. The Delta variant was first seen in India in late 2020 (note that this pre-dates all vaccines, as the first vaccines were administered in India in January 2021). Delta has been responsible for unusually aggressive, fast-moving, and deadly waves of COVID-19 in India, the UK and now North America.


This new wave of COVID-19 should be taken seriously, since in many ways it is significantly worse than the original strain we dealt with in 2020 and the first half of 2021.


How variants evolve


There is nothing mysterious, nefarious or complex about how viral variants come to be. It is straightforward probability. The more times a virus is replicated, the more chances it has to be changed by editing errors. The more editing errors that happen, the greater chance that a significant change will occur.


More people with more virus = more chances for a new variant to emerge.


When a virus infects a body, it hijacks the 3D printing mechanisms inside our own cells. These 3D printers are called ribosomes and they are located in the fluid of the main part of our cells (outside the nucleus). Every time a new copy of the virus is made by any ribosome, in any cell, in any person, there is a chance that an “editing” mistake can be made, resulting in a slight change in the gene sequence of the newly produced virus. Most of these changes make no difference in how the virus works. Some changes create a virus that is less contagious or does not cause illness. Some changes create a more aggressive, contagious or pathogenic virus. Once these more aggressive versions exist, they slowly begin to dominate other variants due to being more successful in their own replication strategy.


How Delta is different


Transmissibility

The Delta variant is significantly more contagious than the original virus. In fact, it has almost double the rate of transmission of the original virus. That means it spreads faster and more easily from person to person. The Delta variant is nearly as contagious as chicken pox (which spreads to 90% of people exposed to it) Whereas the original COVID-19 virus spread to 40-60% exposed to it (all unvaccinated), Delta spreads to about 80% of unvaccinated people that are exposed to it. At this point, it is the most contagious respiratory virus that currently exists.


Higher, Faster Viral Load

The Delta variant binds more easily to ACE2 receptors on our own cells, which means it enters cells more easily. Delta also replicates faster than the original virus, which leads to higher viral loads inside of each infected person (up to 1200x higher). Higher viral loads mean that each infected person expels larger amounts of virus with each breath, cough, sneeze or even talking. This is one reason why it is so much more contagious. Also, the Delta Covid virus is detectable in mucosal samples 2 days earlier than other strains of Covid. This means infected people are more infectious earlier in the arc of their illness. This is another reason why it is so much more contagious.


Equal Opportunity Infections

Young and healthy people are almost equally vulnerable, and Delta seems to affect children and young people at a much higher rate than the original version of Covid. Addtionally, a much more significant portion of hospitalized patients are younger than 40, including healthy people in their 30’s, 20s and teens. Children’s hospitals are filling up with Delta Covid patients. Delta is hitting young and old, healthy and not healthy much more equally than the original virus.


Starting to get around the vaccines

The Delta variant is able to infect those who had Covid previously at higher rates than the original virus (which could also cause repeat Covid infection), and the Delta variant is able to infect vaccinated people at a higher rate than the original form of the virus. It is important to note that vaccines are still successfully preventing serious illness and hospitalization (see below). The Delta variant can be spread by infected vaccinated people, unlike the original Covid virus, which appeared to be unable to replicate enough in a vaccinated person for that person to be contagious to others. Delta seems to have gotten around this. It seems to be able to replicate enough in vaccinated people to be able to spread easily to another person (even while not making the host severely ill).


Possibly more severe illness

It is currently unclear whether Delta is more deadly or makes people sicker. However, early data from Canada and the UK indicates that Delta infection is 1.5x more likely to lead to hospitalization in unvaccinated populations.


Will the vaccine actually protect me from Delta?


The Delta variant is still new enough that we don’t have solid statistics on every different scenario yet. We know that it is possible to get a “breakthrough” Covid infection after being fully vaccinated. This seems to be happening at a much higher rate with the Delta variant. HOWEVER, preliminary data indicates that breakthrough cases are still at less than 0.005%. There also seems to be a higher possibility of a vaccinated person spreading the Delta version of Covid than the original version. This is due to higher viral load during breakthrough infections.


At this point, unvaccinated people who have “natural immunity” from a past Covid infection are 2.5x more likely than vaccinated people to get a second infection. Almost 99% of people that are currently hospitalized with Covid are unvaccinated, and more than 99% of people who have died from Covid were unvaccinated.


So, while the vaccine does not prevent you from getting (or spreading) the Delta variant, vaccination dramatically reduces the chance of infection. In short, vaccination provides dramatic protection from severe illness and death caused by both the original Covid virus and the new Delta variant.


Strategies for Delta

  • The strongest protection against Covid (the original virus or any of the current variants) is getting vaccinated.

  • Continue (or resume) wearing masks indoors or in crowded environments (even if you are vaccinated).

  • Wash your hands and go back to social distancing.

  • It is probably best to minimize travel at this time.

  • Remember to get some exercise, and fresh air as often as you can.

  • Sticking with basic immune balancing supplements is probably best: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc + Bromelain, Glutathione, Mushrooms, Elderberry.

  • Avoid taking high doses of “anti-viral” herbs or supplements unless you are currently ill.


References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369385/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/delta-variant.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/08/11/1026190062/covid-delta-variant-transmission-cdc-chickenpox

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2021/08/07/did-covid-19-vaccines-cause-coronavirus-delta-variants-no-evidence-behind-such-claims/?sh=71e9b846281d

https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/5-things-to-know-delta-variant-covid



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