What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Delta Variant
The threat from COVID-19 has not yet faded completely. A mutation of the virus called Delta variant continues to spread, with the first case in South Dakota recently reported.
“We knew it was coming, and it's likely it'll become the dominant strain in a few weeks,” said David Basel, MD, Avera Medical Group Vice President of Clinical Quality. "It's spread more easily and it can cause higher rates of hospitalization."
Vaccination is the best defense against this form of the coronavirus.
"We’re seeing rates of vaccination dip in younger age groups, and we're facing a dangerous, potentially deadly, variant," Basel said. "It is a race against COVID and we'll lose if more people do not take action and get the vaccine. Your chances of avoiding illness – or a long hospital stay – improve if you have been vaccinated."
The Rise of the Delta Variant
The Delta variant was first seen in India in October 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls it a “variant of concern” and while it represented only about 3% of U.S. cases in May, it's now more than 20% of COVID cases nationally.
That percentage is even higher in the Midwest. Reports for the two weeks that ended June 19 showed the Delta variant comprised almost 48% of cases in states including Iowa and Nebraska.
It has now spread to more than 92 countries.
Staying Safe in the Face of New Threats
Vaccines provide a more robust protection level. "They give you more safety than natural immunity, and even people previously infected with COVID-19 are still vulnerable – if they don't get the shot," Basel said. "COVID deaths now are preventable. Please get vaccinated – they are safe and effective, and could save your life."
Vaccines are available free of charge to anyone age 12 and older.
Avera contributes to COVID variant surveillance programs in the United States, and also shares information with state departments of health. Mutations of the virus are possible in unvaccinated populations.
The biggest fear still remains: that a new mutation (or variant) of COVID would develop in the unvaccinated population, and that variant is immune to the existing vaccines.
“It's a nightmare situation but one that is possible, and it is part of the reason we want to get everyone vaccinated,” Basel said. "If we don't, we will face the chance that a new form of the virus will come into being and set us all back to where we were last summer."
Learn more about getting vaccinated to protect yourself from the COVID-19 Delta variant.