Right about the time when we all started breathing a sigh of relief that COVID-19 was coming under control, the Delta variant of the virus began rearing its ugly head.
Unfortunately, the timing coincided with the lifting of mask mandates, although many argue that masks are not effective in slowing the spread of the virus.
Despite that admission, some cities such as Los Angeles have reinstituted mask mandates as Delta cases have risen, leaving Americans to once again question the efficacy of masks, the vaccine, and other health measures meant to protect against serious illness or death. It’s a legitimate concern since virus numbers have risen across the nation since the start of summer.
While all viruses mutate, Delta is particularly concerning because it spreads even more quickly than the COVID-19 virus and is more contagious. The CDC referred to it as the “fastest and fittest” virus, which is bad news for anyone with low immunity or underlying health conditions. “In a completely unmitigated environment—where no one is vaccinated or wearing masks—it’s estimated that the average person infected with the original coronavirus strain will infect 2.5 other people,” Dr. F. Perry Wilson, a Yale Medicine epidemiologist, said. “In the same environment, Delta would spread from one person to maybe 3.5 or 4 other people.”
If you’ve been vaccinated, you do have a level of protection against Delta. Two studies that have not yet been peer-reviewed found the Pfizer vaccine to be 88% effective against symptomatic disease and 96% effective against serious illness that would require hospitalization as a result of exposure to Delta. Moderna reports a “modest reduction” in the same areas. The theory behind this is that some protection is better than none, so while the current vaccine may not be tailored to the Delta variant, there are enough commonalities to the original COVID-19 virus to provide some protection.
The Delta variant has some slightly different symptoms. As scientists study the variant, they are discovering that the loss of smell and cough so common with COVID-19 are less noticeable with those testing positive for the Delta variant. Headache, sore throat, runny nose, and fever are the main symptoms to look for if you are feeling ill. If you exhibit these symptoms, you are advised to practice the same safety standards as you did with COVID-19: wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet away from others, and get tested.
If you’ve had COVID, you should have your antibodies checked. While antibodies can be robust in someone who had the virus, each body is different and carries the antibodies for different lengths of time. One person may be at risk just a few months after being infected, while another may still have strong antibodies after a year. One way to know for sure is to undergo an antibody test that will give you some indication of where you stand. To play it perfectly safe, most medical professionals recommend receiving at minimum the first vaccination, with many doctors recommending full vaccination, even if you had COVID, and especially if you had it in early 2020, well before the Delta variant came along.
And of course, medical professionals are reminding us all to still practice healthy, everyday habits such as hand washing, eating a diet rich in antioxidants, getting plenty of sleep, and seeing our doctors for routine annual examinations meant to keep us strong against any virus coming our way.