Sep 3, 2021
Virus Variants: What You Need to Know About Delta
Understanding the COVID-19 Delta variant and how to protect yourself along with others.
Sep 3, 2021
You’ve probably been hearing all about Delta. No, not the airline, as much as Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian would like for the name to be changed. Of course, we are talking about the COVID-19 Delta variant or B.1.617.2, the most predominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in the United States as of September 1, 2021 (COVID Data Tracker). What is a virus variant? Are there more variants out there? What should I be doing to protect myself and others against the Delta variant?
To understand Delta, we must first understand virus variants and how we know we are dealing with a variant. Virus variants are not unnatural and are due to mutations. As viruses replicate themselves within a host, there will be slight differences in the final copy of the genetic material. When enough of these mutations accumulate and persist through rounds of replication, researchers call the virus a variant. All variants are not equal. Some mutations give viruses certain advantages, such as improved transmission or faster replication. On the other hand, some mutations can actually be a disadvantage to the virus. Therefore, some variants persist, such as the Delta variant while others fade away without so much as a BuzzFeed article.
So, is the delta variant a SARS-CoV-2 strain? Technically, virus variants are not synonymous with ‘strain’. A strain is when the virus variant displays novel biological capabilities. As of this writing, no COVID-19 variant, including delta, has been characterized as a strain. Other SARS-CoV-2 variants are being tracked by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), which include Alpha (B.1.1.7, the original), Beta B.1.351, Eta (B.1.525), Gamma (P.1), Iota (B.1.526), and Kappa (B.1.617.1). If those names remind you of recruitment week, epidemiologists sometimes name infectious agents after the locality where it is thought to originate, such as Lyme’s Disease (described from Lyme, Connecticut) or West Nile virus (from the West Nile district in Uganda). However, for viruses that cause COVID-19 the Greek alphabet is used instead to prevent stigmatization against a region.
To protect yourself from the Delta variant, and others, it is important to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA-approved Pfizer-BioNTech and FDA emergency use authorized Moderna vaccines, which are of the mitochondrial RNA (mRNA) type, protect against currently known variants, so it is critical that you receive both doses. Though it is possible to spread the virus when vaccinated, vaccines protect against more serious outcomes of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death. This fall, vaccine boosters, intended to “boost” your immune response against waning immunity, will be recommended eight months after your second dose for those who have had a mRNA vaccine. This guidance, however, has not yet been approved for the general public by the FDA.
Vaccination is not the only measure against the Delta variant or other variants. The social distancing measures that were commonplace a year ago are still effective, as is wearing a mask if you are indoors in a crowded, poorly ventilated environment, and proper hand-washing. In the indoor environments where we find ourselves every day, such as schools, offices, gyms, and even at home, regular cleaning and disinfection is ideal. Here at GermBlast, we can help with that.
As experts and leaders in the industry, we are always available by phone or email if you have any questions. At GermBlast, we are happy to pass along such knowledge in our mission of keeping the fight OUTSIDE the body.
Michaela Halsey, in addition to serving as the logistics manager at GermBlast, is a Ph.D. candidate in Biology at Texas Tech University.