Who’s at Risk, How to Reduce the Spread, and Why We Should All Take it Seriously
The rapid rollout of U.S. COVID-19 vaccines has given us all much to celebrate, including a reduction in new coronavirus cases, millions of hospitalizations averted, and thousands of deaths prevented. As the country continues to open back up, however, there is one new trend worth keeping an eye on –
The delta variant.
As of last week, the CDC reported this fast-spreading, highly-transmissible variant is now dominant in the U.S., accounting for the majority of COVID infections across the country. If you’re like most, you may be wondering how you can protect yourself – not to mention, how we can all prevent a new rise in cases that could compromise our progress toward ending the pandemic. Here’s how each of us can do our part to ensure we continue making positive steps forward.
Understand the Risk
“There’s really no way around it,” said Dr. David Brooks, Medical Director of Infectious Disease at ThedaCare. “Unvaccinated individuals are significantly more vulnerable to severe illness should they become infected with the delta variant.”
Evidence thus far has indicated the three currently authorized vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – effectively reduce the risk of COVID-19 for all known variants, including delta.
Children are also at increased risk of infection simply because the variant is more transmissible (potentially 40 to 60 percent more than the original alpha strain), adding to the reasons we should all remain vigilant in our efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.
Now that the delta variant has been reported in more than 95 countries and confirmed in all 50 U.S. states, it’s increasingly important that each individual take necessary precautions to limit the spread of the virus.
“Vaccination remains the best form of protection,” said Dr. Brooks. “But continuing many of the basic precautions suggested since the onset of the pandemic can still make a notable difference.”
In addition to receiving the vaccine once you are eligible, additional best practices include:
- Wearing masks, especially indoors, in densely populated public spaces, and among groups where individuals are not vaccinated or their vaccinated status is unknown
- Diligent and frequent hand washing
- Physical distancing whenever possible
- Getting tested if you have symptoms or are a close contact
Take It Seriously
“It’s common for all viruses to change and mutate over time,” said Dr. Brooks. “What makes the Delta variant particularly alarming is how quickly it can spread from one person to the next, a trend already unfolding in our state and region.”
Another point of concern is the severity of infection caused by the variant. New studies shared by the World Health Organization show people who get the Delta variant are more likely to need supplemental oxygen, require intensive care and/or face life-threatening illness.
“Vaccinated people are not immune from carrying or spreading the COVID-19 virus or its variants,” said Dr. Brooks. “The key difference is that they won’t become hospitalized or face life-threatening symptoms if infected. That remains our top priority, and it should remain the focus of every American.”
As of early July, a reported 65.7% of Wisconsin’s 18+ population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, leaving a significant part of the population still vulnerable to severe illness. And as experts warn, new and potentially severe variants will continue to emerge.
“Human connection is invaluable,” admitted Dr. Brooks. “It’s rewarding for all of us to be able to again consider travel, gathering with loved ones, and attending large gatherings like sporting events and concerts. But in order to continue enjoying the best things in life, we have to continue taking necessary precautions, increasing the rate of vaccination, and working together to make smart decisions that benefit us all.”
Protect yourself and those you love by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine today.