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Why is the Corona Delta variant so worrying? Find out what the experts are saying

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The Corona Delta variant seems to be affecting people who have been vaccinated and it is spreading incredibly quickly. So what makes it so worrying?

The Corona Delta variant or B.1.617.2 was detected for the first time in India in October. Today it is the dominant coronavirus mutation in almost all countries, 84 percent of infections in Germany alone can be traced back to Delta.

Corona Delta variant

Why is the delta variant of the coronavirus is more contagious?

Most infectiologist in the world agree that the delta mutation is definitely easier, easier and faster to transfer than the previous virus variants. As early as the spring of 2021, experts estimated that Delta could be twice as contagious as the so-called wild variant of the coronavirus.

Possible reason: The viral load – i.e. the number of viruses in the body of infected people – could be significantly higher in the delta variant.

▶ ︎ A Chinese study even came to the result that “the viral load of the first positive test for delta infections was around 1000 times higher than (…) that of the infections in the first epidemic wave of 2020.”

Attention: This study is a pre-publication and has yet to be reviewed by external experts.

The fact that the delta variant has displaced the other variants in a very short time and has become the predominant variant suggests that it is more transmissible (i.e. more transferable). It doesn’t need any study proof, just common sense. Delta is simply the fitter variant. 


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WHO Designation Scientific Designation First Evidence Evidence Country
AlphaB.1.1.7September 2020UK
BetaB.1.351May 2020South Africa
GammaP.1November 2020Brazil
DeltaB.1.617.2October 2020India
EpsilonB.1.427, B.1.429March 2020US
ZetaP.2April 2020Brazil
EtaB.1.525December 2020Angola
ThetaP.3January 2021Phillipines
IotaB.1.526November 2020US
KappaB.1.617.1October 2020India
LambdaC.37August 2020Peru
Corona Delta variant

The Corona Delta variant has a shorter incubation time

Scientific studies also suggest that the incubation time for the delta mutation could be significantly shorter than was observed for the so-called wild variant of the coronavirus.

The period between infection and the onset of the disease could therefore be shortened from around six to four days.

Scientists believe that there is probably a connection with the higher viral load observed at the beginning of the infection. The reason being that only when the virus has been able to multiply appropriately can the disease break out at all.

The Corona Delta variant has unclear symptoms

Another tricky thing about the Delta variant is that the symptoms that occur can more closely resemble a harmless cold with a runny nose or headache. Which is why those affected are less likely to have been infected with Corona.

Consequence: Without clear symptoms, the test motivation is also lower and infected people could spread the virus undetected and unnoticed. Especially since an often typical, special corona sign – the loss of the sense of smell and taste – is observed less often with B.1.617.2.

Scientists at the Institute for Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen believe that although the different symptoms causally related to the Delta variant cannot be clearly answered, it may also be due to the fact that the virus is currently mostly affecting younger people who are hardly or at least not seriously ill anyway.

Is the Corona Delta variant more dangerous?

The WHO currently reports on a study from Canada. Accordingly, the risk of having to go to hospital for corona could increase significantly if infected with the Delta variant.

According to the study, B.1.617.2 increases the risk of hospitalization for Covid-19 by around 120 percent. And the risk of dying from the disease increases by 137 percent.

It is important to note: Other studies – for example from Great Britain – come to the opposite conclusion here. In order to conclude that the delta variant is more deadly than the previous one – the data situation is insufficient for this!

Here, too, it is difficult to compare, because a completely different group of people is currently affected by the infections than was the case before the vaccination campaign.

Healthy 20-year-olds do not die from Corona.

The danger is that it can become problematic if the infection goes unnoticed in young people and encounters the elderly from this group who have still not been vaccinated.

Corona Delta variant

What does Delta mean for the global vaccination campaign?

In the UK, several people died of or with an infection with the Delta variant despite being completely vaccinated. However, it cannot be deduced from this that the available vaccines against the variant did not work, said the head of virology at the Berlin Charité, Christian Drosten, in the NDR podcast “Coronavirus Update”

The effectiveness of the BionTech vaccine falls from 90 percent in the original variant to 88 percent, that of Astrazeneca from 66 to 60 percent. These numbers apply after full immunization, i.e. after the second vaccination. 

The Delta variant is “particularly good at” infecting people with incomplete vaccination protection, i.e. after an initial vaccination.

Is Delta firing a fourth wave in Germany?

In Germany, the corona delta variant has pushed back all other variants. In late July the Robert Koch Institute revealed the share to be more than 0 percent. The infection rate in Germany is currently still at a low level, but the values ​​are rising significantly and quickly. Federal Health Minister Spahn warned that without countermeasures there could be incidences of 400 to 800 in the fall.

What measures are being taken against the spread of the delta variant?

Rising case numbers have already tightened the corona rules in some countries: For example, the Netherlands withdrew the easing, and Prime Minister Rutte publicly apologized for a misjudgment of the situation. 

In France, there are stricter entry regulations and restrictions on visiting museums, theaters and leisure facilities. Outside Europe, Indonesia and Australia, among others, imposed new lockdowns. Countries with a high vaccination rate, such as Israel or Chile, were also affected and had to withdraw.

England, on the other hand, lifted almost all Corona measures on so-called “Freedom Day” – despite more than 50,000 new infections in one day. Prime Minister Johnson referred to the personal responsibility of the people, scientists were appalled against it – also because new mutations are facilitated by the increasing number of infections.

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