Variants are expected as viruses constantly change through mutation. As the virus travels from person to person, it changes slightly each time it is transmitted. Thus, we have variants that form.  It’s possible for new variants to emerge, then disappear–where others may persist such as the Delta variant. 

What is a variant?

A variant as another version of something, that has varying similarities and differences to it’s original form. In context to COVID-19, the delta variant is a mutation of the COVID-19 virus that is similar in spike protein shape but has drastic differences in transmission-ability and severity of symptoms.  

How do variants form?

Think of the telephone game, sitting in a circle with friends whispering a message into one another’s ear. Once you get towards the end of the line, the message is never the same. Apply that concept to the coronavirus. The virus goes travels from person to person, changing a little each time it is transmitted.  

What are the current variants?

Going down the Greek alphabet, we’ve identified other variants as early as December 2020. Starting with Alpha from the United Kingdom, Beta from South Africa, Gamma from Japan & Brazil and are now on to the Delta variant from India. You may remember hearing on the news about rising cases in these countries last winter.  

Although the location of origination is not the most important part of this information, it goes to show why it’s important to limit unnecessary travel and to ensure you are doing everything possible to keep yourself safe during essential travel. Regardless, all of these variants have found a way to make it into our home country. 

What do we know about the current variants?

For comparison, all variants spread faster compared to the original, but each variant varies on how fast it travels from person to person; with Alpha and Delta being the fastest. 

There has been various data collected and studies done (which is continually being investigated) to see if each variant causes worse symptoms, increased hospitalizations, and even linked to increased death rates from the virus. Current data states that the Gamma & Beta strains do not have indicators of severe illness nor death caused by these variants, where Alpha and Delta do have these indicators. 

If you do fall ill with one of these variants, the effectiveness of treatment varies from variant to variant. Beta, Gamma, and Delta are resistant to some monoclonal antibody treatments. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses.  

What’s different about the Delta variant?

The delta variant is more contagious compared to other variants. It’s quoted to be “as contagious as Chicken Pox” and can infect twice as many people than the original strain of the coronavirus. This is because this variant has a higher viral load in those that it infects, which causes it to spread more rapidly. 

People who are not currently fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are at the highest risk of contracting this variant. The symptoms of this variant are the same as COVID-19, but the onset is much faster and can be more severe, causing more hospitalizations.  

How can being vaccinated help?

Getting vaccinated can help decrease the risk of severe symptoms, prevent hospitalization and even death from this variant. Current FDA-authorized vaccines protect against Delta and other known variants and are being continually investigated about their effectiveness. 

Breakthrough cases, meaning those who are already vaccinated and test positive to COVID-19, are possible. Although it is less likely to become severely ill, it’s more likely that you can be asymptomatic and unknowingly pass on the virus to others.  

This is the reason why mask mandates are being put back in place to protect not only yourself, but others around you–especially those who are unable to get vaccinated due to various health reasons. 

As we have seen with this new variant, getting vaccinated as a whole community can stop the mutation of more deadly variants in the future. Getting vaccinated is no longer just for personal gain or benefits–it’s for everyone else around you to be safe. In other words, it’s not for me, it’s for we.  

Get Vaccinated

Health Services has COVID-19 vaccines available to all WSU students and staff. Come stop by the IWC COVID-19 Nook between 10–11:30AM & 2:30–4PM Mon–Fri for your FREE COVID-19 vaccine. 

Already been vaccinated? Fill out the self-report form below.

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Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson graduated in 2020 with a degree in Art: I-Design. As a student, she worked with the University Marketing & Communications team as a writer and photographer. She was hired after graduation to support public health communications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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