Document says coronavirus variant as infectious as chicken pox, may be easily transmissible regardless of vaccination status
The Delta variant of the coronavirus, described by authorities in Pakistan as comprising the bulk of confirmed infections being reported daily in the country, is far more contagious than all other identified versions of the virus, and is also more likely to break through protection offered by available vaccines, warns an internal report compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the report, which was publicized by the Washington Post on Thursday evening, the Delta variant is more transmissible than the viruses responsible for MERS, SARS, Ebola, the common cold, the seasonal flu and smallpox, and is believed to be as contagious as chickenpox.
It also warns that the amount of virus in a person infected with Delta is a thousand-fold more than that seen in people infected with the original strain of the virus, and that detailed analysis of the spread of cases showed that people infected with Delta had a significantly higher viral load in their nose and throat, regardless of vaccination status.
The internal document, which emerged after the CDC advised re-imposing masking mandates—especially among vaccinated people indoors—says infections of the Delta variant might be more likely to lead to severe illness, citing studies from Canada and Scotland that found that people infected with the variant are more likely to be hospitalized. A separate study in Singapore suggested they are more likely to require oxygen.
According to the CDC, the Delta infection also lasts longer than the original strain of COVID-19, with data suggesting that it can last for up to 18 days, compared to the 13 days witnessed earlier. “Risk of reinfection with Delta may be higher compared to the Alpha variant, but only if prior infection [was 180 days or earlier],” it added.
Reassuringly, the CDC document says, vaccines are still highly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death. The data indicates that even though vaccinated people are also aiding in the spread of the virus, it is likely to a far lesser degree than the unvaccinated.
The CDC document cites data from multiple studies conducted globally, including an analysis of a recent outbreak in Massachusetts.
While Pakistan doesn’t provide detailed analysis of variant spread—with Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan telling BBC Urdu it was because genomic sequencing was “expensive”—a random sampling of 94 samples of COVID-19 patients in Karachi found 65 (69 percent) were of the Delta variant. Experts believe its true spread might be closer to 75 percent.