The COVID-19 Delta variant has recently come to the forefront of headlines and news coverage as medical professionals continue the battle against the coronavirus. Here’s what local experts say you should know about the Delta variant of the virus.
According to Dr. Larry Anderson, chairman for the Dawson County Health Board and physician at Anderson Family Medicine, the Delta variant is a mutation of the COVID-19 virus.
“The Delta is a variant of the COVID-19, it’s not a new different COVID,” Anderson said. “It has to do with the proteins that are on the virus; it mutates a little bit.”
Natasha Young, public information officer for the Department of Public Health District 2, said that the Delta variant seems to be more contagious than previous strains of the virus.
‘It is a new COVID strain and it is more than twice as easily spread from one person to another compared to earlier strains, so it has become the predominant variant since May 2021,” Young said.
Both Anderson and Young said that the symptoms of the Delta variant are much the same as the original COVID-19 virus, so the two can come across as identical. According to Anderson, the two strains of the virus show up very similar on tests.
"The symptoms are the same; you can’t tell from the symptoms if it’s the variant or not but most of these rapid testing does not differentiate between the COVID virus and the Delta,” Anderson said. “The COVID-19 variant seems to be a little bit more contagious than COVID-19, but it doesn’t seem at this point to be any more virulent.”
Young said that while the arrival of the Delta variant has contributed to a spike in COVID-19 cases, the Department of Public Health doesn’t keep records of which strain patients who test positive may have.
“We don’t have any data specifically on the number of Delta infections in our area; that’s not something that they map out for us, they just know that someone has been infected with COVID,” Young said. “It’s all over Georgia; nationally we are seeing an increase of over 300 percent from June 19 to July 23, so it’s just something that we’re watching closely.”
According to the Department of Public Health website, COVID-19 cases in Dawson County have continued to go up from the beginning to the end of July 2021, with 10 confirmed cases between July 17 and July 23 and 36 confirmed cases between July 24 and July 30. According to the website, Dawson County has seen a total of 2,833 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date.
Anderson said that the COVID-19 vaccine seems to be effective against the Delta variant, but that even those with the vaccine can still be susceptible to the mutation.
“The people who have been vaccinated are still at a little bit of a risk for getting the COVID Delta variant because everybody who gets the vaccine does not always develop the antibodies,” Anderson said. “We see this with the flu vaccine and everything else.”
Young said that, while those who have gotten the vaccine can test positive as breakthrough cases of the Delta variant, this represents a small percentage of the total cases in the country.
“Data is showing that some of those individuals that get the Delta variant as a breakthrough case after they’ve been vaccinated can be contagious, but it represents a very small rate of transmission around our country,” Young said. “If an area is less than 70 percent vaccinated, you’re gonna see a chance of high transmission and you’re gonna see more cases pop up.”
According to Anderson, the variant spreads in very much the same way as the original virus, so measures to prevent catching it are also mostly identical.
“It spreads the same way; no difference in how it spreads, no difference of your risk factors,” Anderson said. “Get the vaccine, wear your mask when you go out in public, you should kind of do some form of social distancing — basically all the things that we did with COVID to start with.”
Young said that enough people getting the vaccine can help to prevent future variants of the virus from forming.
“We’re recommending the vaccine as really the most important thing we can do to end the pandemic and stop getting different variants,” Young said. “The more of us that get vaccinated, you’re gonna see less of a chance of getting a new variant.”
In the end, Anderson said that, since there’s not much of a difference between COVID-19 and its variant, it’s not important to get caught up in which one you have if you do get sick.
“I wouldn’t get too totally concerned about which one you have,” Anderson said. “An antibody is an antibody and COVID is COVID, so whatever you do it’s gonna help protect you.”
For those interested in receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, Anderson said that most doctor’s offices, drugstores and the health department have them readily available.