Carl J. Fichtenbaum, MD, warned there could be grave consequences from the resurgence of COVID-19 in Greater Cincinnati.
“The delta variant poses a significant threat to our community,” said Dr. Fichtenbaum. He has been on the front lines of COVID-19 research from the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic as a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and a UC Health physician.
“It is concerning to me because there are a lot of people living in the Cincinnati area who’ve yet to be infected with COVID-19, have not been vaccinated and have zero protection from this new delta variant.”
What’s different about the delta variant?
The delta variant caused major devastation as it rapidly spread through India in late 2020. It was first detected in the U.S. in March 2021 and quickly became the dominant strain causing new infections, especially among the unvaccinated.
Dr. Fichtenbaum and other researchers note troubling differences in the delta variant that make it a greater health risk than previous forms of COVID-19 as people gather in larger groups for major events, in restaurants, and as teachers and students return to school.
“The concerning part with this delta variant is it is 50% more contagious,” Dr. Fichtenbaum said. “It spreads particularly among younger people. We’re finding that people get sicker with this variant when you compare it to the original virus.”
Changes in the genetic code are what make the delta variant so much more dangerous. Those mutations allow it to make faster and tighter connections to host cells. That faster connection supercharges the delta variant’s ability to reproduce and spread from one person to another.
Science continues to point to vaccination as the fastest way to bring the pandemic to an end and prevent the risk of future coronavirus mutations that could be worse than the delta variant.
“We could face further mutation because if the virus continues to circulate and affects some of our most vulnerable people, those who have immune disorders and may be infected for a prolonged period of time, that’s when the virus changes itself and adapts,” Dr. Fichtenbaum said.
COVID-19 vaccines proving effective against the delta variant
Research shows the three vaccines granted an emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—those made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—all provide a strong defense against all the COVID-19 variants, including the delta variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that so-called “breakthrough infections” among those vaccinated against COVID-19 are possible, but those infections are generally milder than those in people who are unvaccinated—greatly reducing the risk of hospitalization and death.
“The extensive data from around the world prove the vaccines work. They save lives and reduce the risk of serious illness and hospitalization,” Richard P. Lofgren, MD, president and CEO of UC Health, said at a news conference announcing that hospitals in Greater Cincinnati will unite to vaccinate all employees against COVID-19.
“The development of the COVID-19 vaccines has been a remarkable feat of science and collaboration. The safety and efficacy are truly extraordinary,” Dr. Lofgren said.