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Symptoms of the Delta Variant: COVID-19, Vaccine & Treatment

The Delta variant is a highly contagious strain of the COVID-19 virus. Learn about symptoms of the Delta variant and how to protect yourself from infection

Studies identifying specific symptoms caused by the Delta variant are still underway. According to a study conducted in the United Kingdom (where the Delta strain is dominant) symptoms of the Delta variant infection such as cough and loss of smell are less common.

Most common symptoms include:

  • Fever (100 degrees F or higher)
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms include:

  • Body aches
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Mucus/phlegm
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Skin rash or discoloration of the fingers or toes

Serious symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Persistent chest pain or pressure in the chest
  • Loss of speech or movement
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • High temperature
  • Bluish lips or face

Symptoms that may require hospitalization include:

  • Severe neurological complications such as delirium, brain inflammation, stroke, or nerve damage
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Extreme disorientation and altered mental status with or without seizures

On average, it may take 5-6 days for symptoms to appear after infection, although this period ranges from 1-14 days.

What is the Delta variant?

The Delta variant, also called B.1.617.2, is a mutant strain of COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. The virus subsequently mutated as it spread throughout the world. Each mutation is assigned a letter (Alpha, Beta, Delta, etc.).

The first case of Delta variant infection in the United States was reported in March 2021. The Delta variant now accounts for 83.2% of all new infections in the U.S. according to the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Studies have reported that the Delta variant:

  • Is 50% more contagious than the original alpha COVID-19 virus strain
  • Is associated with a higher risk of complications and hospitalization
  • Spreads and infects quickly
  • Affects the younger population more often
  • Creates hospitalization risk for unvaccinated individuals

Are vaccines effective against the Delta variant?

All vaccines offer some level of protection against the Delta variant. Vaccination and mask use are therefore crucial in protecting yourself against infection.

  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine: 
    • Found to be 36% and 88% effective against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant after first and second doses, respectively. 
    • Found to be 94% and 96% effective in preventing hospitalization after first and second doses, respectively.
  • Moderna vaccine: 
    • Uses the same technology as that of Pfizer; therefore, researchers believe it should provide similar protection as that provided by the Pfizer vaccine. 
    • Studies are underway to determine exactly the extent of protection the vaccine offers.
  • AstraZeneca vaccine:
    • Found to be 60% effective against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant and 93% effective against complications and hospitalization after both doses.
  • Johnson & Johnson vaccine: 
    • Single-shot vaccine that has been shown to be effective against the Delta variant, although not as protective as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. 
    • Some researchers believe this vaccine has similar results to those of the AstraZeneca vaccine, although more studies are underway.

How does the the COVID-19 Delta variant spread?

COVID-19 spreads in the following ways:

  • When an infected person coughs or sneezes, releasing viral particles into the air, and another person breathes in those particles, they can become infected with the virus. It spreads between people in close contact, within 6 feet.
  • Sometimes, it can spread to a person exposed to small droplets or aerosols containing the virus that stay in the air for several minutes or hours.
  • Moreover, it can spread if a person touches a surface or object with viral particles on it and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes.

How is the Delta variant infection treated?

Currently, there are no specific treatments for COVID-19, including an infection caused by the Delta variant. Scientists are working on developing treatment methods, and many clinical trials are underway. Doctors, therefore, advise taking precautions such as getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and maintaining social distance and good hygiene.

  • People with mild COVID-19 can ease their symptoms with sufficient rest and medications as prescribed by their doctor. 
  • Antibiotics do not help because they help treat a bacterial infection, not a viral infection. 
  • Doctors do not advise self-medicating or using herbs to attempt to prevent or cure COVID-19.
  • Supportive care includes oxygen for people who are severely ill and respiratory support such as ventilation for people who are critically ill.  
  • Research has shown that the use of hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, lopinavir, ritonavir, and interferon have little or no effect in treating COVID-19.
  • Various steroid medications including dexamethasone are being used to treat COVID-19, which has been found to reduce the risk of death. However, studies on their effectiveness are still being conducted. The indiscriminate use of dexamethasone may also result in superinfection with other bacteria or fungi.

Medically Reviewed on 3/28/2022

References

https://www.who.int/en/activities/tracking-SARS-CoV-2-variants/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant-info.html

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2108891

https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/5-things-to-know-delta-variant-covid

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