More contagious and more severe COVID-19 delta variant hitting unvaccinated

The delta variant is a more contagious strain that tends to result in more severe illness; COVID-19 vaccines appear to blunt its impact.

The delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is a more contagious strain that tends to result in more severe illness, and in a sign that current vaccines appear to blunt its impact, illnesses have been most notable among those who aren’t fully vaccinated.

The variant was identified first in India and is now present in the United Kingdom and the United States. Viruses can mutate over time, creating variants that can be easier to pass along infection or cause more severe illness. The delta variant is particularly concerning because of the higher rate of transmission and intensified illness seen in those infected with it.

Vaccines likely will reduce the severity of illness and likelihood of infection, but the vaccine hasn’t been studied thoroughly for the variant. It is difficult to predict exactly how well vaccines will protect against the variant.

Health care providers are on the lookout for unusual cases of COVID-19, and they send samples from those patients to state labs or to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. The labs then can identify the variant through genetic sequencing.

Continue to exercise caution

“We’re probably in a period for a while of some ups and downs” said Paul S. Schulz, M.D., infectious diseases specialist and system epidemiologist at Norton Healthcare. “Where the actual end will be is probably hard to predict.”

There are many unknowns surrounding the delta variant and the effects it will have. Currently, most COVID-19 cases are in those who aren’t fully vaccinated, and the variant could have serious impacts on these people.

People aren’t fully vaccinated until two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine.

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