The rise of the delta variant

What you need to know about the highly transmissible COVID strain

As case numbers and hospitalizations skyrocket again, it’s time to look at the high- ly contagious delta variant is becoming the most dominant COVID-19 strain worldwide.

According to the CDC, the delta variant is more than two times as contagious as pre- vious variants. Forbes reported that in just a weeks time there was a 1/3 increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout the entire United States.

Ferris pharmacy professor Michael Klep- ser specializes in infectious diseases and point of care diagnostics. He has been staying up to date on the latest pandem- ic related information and research since COVID-19 first became a national and world- wide issue.

“The delta variant seems to have mutations that allow it to be more transmissible because it has more spike proteins on the surface, so it attaches to the receptor bet- ter. It also has a mutation that allows it to replicate faster and to higher levels,” Klep- ser said.

Klepser explained that the vaccines still protect individuals against the delta vari- ant, however, vaccinated people can still get COVID-19. This is called a breakthrough in- fection and it’s extremely rare. There is not a considerable risk of hospitalization or death from such infections. New information from the CDC shared that vaccinated people with breakthrough COVID-19 infections are at still risk of spreading the infection to others, which could potentially be fatal for unvacci- nated individuals.

A federal report stated that among col- lege aged individuals only about 1/3 are vaccinated. Additionally, according to the

Michigan vaccine tracker, in Mecosta Coun- ty only 36% of people are fully vaccinated.

“I’m especially worried about the resi- dence halls. If we have 60-70% of the peo- ple not vaccinated and we get one of these delta cases in there, things could go south very quickly,” Klepser said. “I think that the first month back is going to be very import- ant, and I would strongly encourage stu- dents, faculty and staff to be very vigilant in protecting themselves and others during this time.”

Klepser explained that as long as there are unvaccinated, susceptible populations, such as developing countries with less than 10% of their population vaccinated or young children who cannot get vaccinated, these variants will keep appearing.

“There’s going to be more (variants) un- fortunately,” Klepser said. “One that’s of concern is something called the lambda variant. It originated in Peru and it shares a lot of characteristics of delta in terms of transmissibility and viral replication, but it also may evade the immune system. That’s really the concern. If you couple some of the delta characteristics with a virus that’s go- ing to be not as targeted by vaccine or natural immunity.”

According to the CDC and Professor Klepser, the key to avoiding contracting delta, lambda or any other variant is getting vaccinated and continuing to wear masks.