Coronavirus: What we know about the Delta variant

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In England, the corona mutant delta has already replaced variant alpha. B.1.617.2 is even more contagious than variant alpha and is also one of the coronavirus variants of concern. Such is the trend in Austria and Europe.

Variant Alpha is currently the most widespread virus variant in Europe. However, since the mutant Delta (B.1.617.2) has been available, the variant Alpha has lost some of its terror – even though both belong to the virus variants of concern (VOC). This is because B.1.617.2 is even more contagious and more easily transmitted than variant alpha (B.1.1.7.). In addition, depending on the vaccine and the number of vaccinations, the vaccination is less effective against the delta variant.

Corona variant Delta is significantly more contagious
The risk of infecting members of one’s own household is estimated to be 60 percent higher, states Public Health England (PHE). In addition, the viruses multiply more in the body – meaning the viral load is higher. This was the result of a risk analysis by the British Department of Health. The delta variant is already prevalent in England, where it now causes around 90 percent of corona infections.

Both the alpha and delta variants also carry an increased risk of hospitalization. Delta also has a slightly higher rate of severe courses.

Is the delta variant more deadly?
So far, there is little scientific data on whether the delta variant also causes more deaths than other variants. What is certain, however, is that people already vaccinated against Covid-19 have died in the United Kingdom from infection with the delta variant, according to PHE.

Between Feb. 1, 2021, and June 14, 2021, 10 people died from Delta infection 21 days after the first vaccine dose, and 26 others died more than two weeks after the second vaccine dose. However, nothing is known about age, preexisting conditions, or which vaccine was used in these deaths. (As of Public Health England Technical briefing 16, June 18, 2021.)

Corona variant delta: how the vaccine protects
With just one dose of vaccine with Comirnaty (Biontech), you are minimally to moderately less protected against delta variant, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). With only one vaccination with Vaxzevria (Astrazeneca), on the other hand, the risk of becoming infected again (reinfection) is considerably increased, according to the WHO. Obviously, fewer neutralizing antibodies are formed than with two vaccinations with Vaxzevria or one or two vaccinations with Comirnaty (Biontech).

This is one reason why variant delta was able to spread so quickly in England, because Astrazeneca’s vaccine was vaccinated there in more age groups and much more frequently overall than in Austria. Another reason is that while more people in England have been vaccinated than in Austria, apparently not enough or too few have received the second dose of the vaccine. With delta infected 80 percent of the unvaccinated and 20 percent of the predominantly once vaccinated.

Concern about spread of Corona variant Delta in Germany
In Austria’s neighboring country Germany, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the Delta variant has already been detected in all 16 states – in an increasing percentage of the samples tested: In the week of June 14-20 (calendar week 24), nearly 37 percent of all new Corona infections were due to the Delta variant, according to the latest figures from the RKI. In calendar week 23, the proportion was 15.1 percent.

This means that the variant is not yet the most widespread in Germany. However, since only one third of the population has been vaccinated twice so far, “the virus has plenty of room to spread,” says statistician Dirk Brockmann, who heads the “Epidemiological Modeling of Infectious Diseases” team at the RKI. That is why the delta variant can be expected to spread further in Germany.

England and Wales postpone relaxations because of delta variant
The English government actually wanted to lift the measures to contain the Corona pandemic on June 21, 2021. Because of the wide spread of the delta variant, the measures are now not expected to be relaxed until July 19, 2021. Protective measures in Wales will also be extended by four weeks.

Delta mutant: situation in India eases up
In India – where the delta variant was first discovered in 2020 – protective measures have meanwhile been relaxed again. In the past two months, the country has been struggling with a dramatic new wave of corona, with more than 400,000 new infections on some days.

Delta Corona Variant Fact Sheet
Discovered: In October 2020 in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Variant of concern (VOC) since: May 11, 2021.
Symptoms: are different from previous Corona infections and more similar to a cold in younger people. Tim Spector of King’s College London analyzed data from the Corona app. In addition to fever, symptoms now include headache, runny nose and dry throat as a priority.

Corona mutant Delta – wave of infection in autumn?
A new study by Oxford University shows that the seasonality of the Delta variant is much more pronounced than originally assumed. In summer, the risk of contracting it is significantly lower than in the cold season.

Another feature of Delta is that in England, of the children infected, one percent become so severely ill that they require hospital treatment.

Corona mutant delta – continue to comply with protective measures
In general, due to the still low vaccination rate in Austria and the Corona variants of concern (VOC), especially Alpha and Delta, the government continues to recommend adhering to protective measures, i.e. wearing a mask and following the 3G rules. This is especially true indoors. The chairman of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, also warns that FFP2 masks should definitely continue to be worn on public transport, in stores and other indoor areas.

Corona variant formation requires international monitoring
The corona pandemic is a global problem that requires international structures, says Isabella Eckerle, head of the Emerging Viruses Research Group at the University of Geneva. Problematic are regions that have limited access to vaccines and still have to wait a long time for population vaccination coverage. There, SARS-CoV-2 can circulate largely uncontrolled. The risk of new corona variants forming as a result is high. Therefore, these regions are risk areas that should be monitored. According to Eckerle, monitoring would also need to include specific livestock and wildlife populations.

The model for global monitoring could be the influenza surveillance system for annual flu waves. Richard Neher, head of the Evolution of Viruses and Bacteria research group at the University of Basel’s Biozentrum, says, “A global network has existed here for years that collects influenza viruses and measures incidences.” Every six months, he said, there is a recommendation for the composition of the flu vaccine. Regular vaccine updates will probably be necessary for Covid-19 as well, Neher explains.

— hp/sources: vienna.at/dw.com/br.de/picture: pixabay.com

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