What to know about the highly contagious Delta variant


by David Winter, MD

Aug 6, 2021

Information and guidance about COVID-19 care and vaccination continues to evolve. Please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the latest.

Whether you’re vaccinated or not, it’s a safe bet thoughts of the COVID-19 Delta variant have crossed your mind in the past few weeks. Texas is currently experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases, the majority of them due to the highly contagious Delta variant.

So, what does this mean for you and your family? Should you be worried? Here’s what you need to know to keep you and your family well.

It’s extremely contagious.

The Delta variant is extremely contagious, more so than previous variants we’ve seen. In fact, data indicates that Delta is almost twice as transmissible as the original strain of COVID-19 and 40-60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant.

With that in mind, it’s important to wear a mask around other people, physical distance and avoid crowded places, regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated. For more information, refer to the CDC’s guidelines for fully vaccinated people.

If you’re vaccinated, you are still protected from serious illness.

If you are vaccinated, you are less likely to get COVID-19, including the Delta variant. You’re also strongly protected from serious illness, hospitalization and the potential of lasting “COVID long hauler” symptoms. If you do contract the Delta variant after getting vaccinated, the illness is usually very mild.

If you are not vaccinated, be very careful in public places and please, please wear a mask at all times around other people. The Delta variant is causing almost all hospitalizations at the moment, and your chances of severe illness are much higher without the protection of the vaccine.

Haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine yet? Now is the time. To schedule your vaccine appointment today, download MyBSWHealth.

The symptoms look a little different.

What’s interesting about the Delta variant is that the symptoms appear a little bit differently than previous strains of the COVID-19 virus. The biggest difference is that loss of taste and smell don’t seem to be a symptom of this new variant.

Instead, initial symptoms look very much like a common cold or allergies:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Head congestion
  • Fever

It’s very hard to distinguish the Delta variant from a common cold or allergies. Though symptoms often appear like a common cold or allergies, it can lead to severe illness or hospitalization if you are not vaccinated. So, that means if you start having any upper respiratory symptoms and think you may have COVID-19, use our virtual care options to receive quality, convenient care through a video visit or eVisit. Learn more about what to do if you think you have COVID-19 here.

Everyone should wear a mask.

The CDC recommendseveryone wear a mask in areas of high transmission, whether you’ve been vaccinated or not. Masking helps protect you and others from all variants of COVID-19. If you are vaccinated and get COVID-19, you can still transmit the virus to others. But again, your risk of getting the virus is significantly lower due to the high effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Bottom line on the Delta variant

Personally, here’s what I’m doing to keep myself, my family and my patients safe.

  • Wearing a mask anytime I go in public, especially at the grocery store or other high traffic areas. I’m vaccinated, so I’m not worried about getting really sick. But I don’t want to spread the virus to anyone around me or have to miss any days of work if I do get sick.
  • Encouraging everyone to get the vaccine. It’s safe, effective and the best thing you can do to protect yourself from serious illness.
  • Washing my hands frequently. Hopefully, you haven’t let up on handwashing and sanitizing. It’s important to continue these healthy hygiene habits to keep germs from spreading.
  • Keeping an eye out for any COVID-19 symptoms. It bears repeating—the Delta variant looks confusingly like allergies or the common cold. I’m paying close attention to how I feel, and you should too. If you start to feel sick, talk to your doctor.

Subscribe to the Scrubbing In newsletter for more ways to stay well throughout the pandemic.

About the Author

David Winter, MD, is an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Signature Medicine – Tom Landry.

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