Question: Living in the mid-south, should we be concerned about the delta variants?

Answer: Absolutely yes. Though to most people, it may seem that the pandemic is over and that we are done with the virus, this is not the case. The virus is not done with us. 

There is still a great deal of background viral activity going on globally and nationally that can impact us, specifically with the delta variant strain. 

The delta strain was originally seen in India, and is highly transmissible. For example, before if one person in the family became infected, then maybe one in three others would become infected.

With the delta variant, if one person in the family is infected, then almost always the entire family becomes infected and a large number of their contacts. 

Does the delta variant cause worse illness?

At present we do not have complete data on this, but there are anecdotal reports that patients who become ill with delta variant have longer durations of fever. 

How many cases of the delta variant do we have in Shelby county?

Just in the past week, we have identified four independent clusters, which are associated with 10 confirmed cases and 14 probable cases. The numbers are likely going to rise exponentially.

These cluster have no link to international travel, so it is likely that we are having community transmission of this variant. 

Will we have another wave, “surge of infection?” 

It’s hard to tell. However the United Kingdom has had to go back into a lockdown due to the variant. In early May they had around 2,000 cases per day and then largely due to the delta variant  this has exploded to 4 times more, now to 8,000 cases per day. The same can happen here.

Will the vaccines protect us from the delta variant?

Yes. But only if you have two doses. A study from Public Health England found that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine had 88% efficacy against the delta variant, while one dose only had 33% protection. So if you had only one dose be sure to get the second dose or else you will not be protected against the delta variant. 

We do not have data on the efficacy of other vaccines against the delta variant. 

Are most people fully vaccinated?

No. Sadly only one in three people in Shelby county are fully vaccinated. Also 1 in 5 have not completed their two doses of vaccination. All of this bodes trouble for our region as the delta variant storms through the community over the next 3-6 months. It is likely the delta variant will be the predominant strain by the end of the summer.

You can get the vaccine or else you will get the virus. And, it is far more safe to get the vaccine and avoid the possible complication of long term covid infections. 

Will our hospitals become inundated again with cases again from COVID-19?

Unlikely. While the delta variant is highly transmissible, it will attack those who are unvaccinated and have not had Covid infection before. Our antibody data shows us that less than 1 in 3 Shelby County residents are vulnerable.

That is, two-thirds of the population has had covid or has been vaccinated.

The hope is that this will be sufficient to prevent a massive surge of patients as we had seen in previous surges. 

Source: Commercial Appeal