By Peter Weber, The Week
The U.S. is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant. Just how dangerous is it? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the Delta variant?
The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 — the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — was first identified in India in December 2020. After ravaging India and sweeping through Great Britain, the Delta variant is now the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for more than 83 percent of COVID-19 infections.
Is Delta more dangerous?
The World Health Organization calls Delta “the fastest and fittest” of the variants, and they don’t mean it as a compliment. The Delta mutation modified the protein spikes the coronavirus uses to attach to and infect cells, and those mutations make it at least twice as transmissible as the original strain. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the Delta variant “one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career.” The Delta strain doesn’t appear to be intrinsically more fatal, but people infected with the variant have a viral load 1,000 times greater than those infected with earlier mutations, according to preliminary research, and they shed more virus for a longer period of time. The massive quantity of virus means more chances to infect a person’s cells, and the more the Delta variant spreads in a community, the higher the odds an individual will come in contact with infected people and get blasted with an amount of coronavirus that will make them sick.