Delta Variant: Here’s What We Know So Far
World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared serious acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) a pandemic in March 2020. The evolution of this virus overtime has been highly unpredictable. Despite the cutting-edge technology and human resource available in the most developed countries like the US and the entire Western Europe, this virus has created havoc throughout the world. Most recently, India was ravaged by the Delta variant of concern (VOC) of SARS-COV-2, which spread exponentially throughout the large country, killing hundreds of thousands of people and by one recent estimate possibly caused four million excess deaths.
Delta variant is a mutant of SARS-COV-2, which in simple words mean a different face of the virus created by its machinery to withstand the pressure imposed upon it by the human immune system. One thing has become increasingly clear overtime that this Delta VOC is much more contagious than its prior original shape and possibly causes severer illness although the latter is highly debatable.
Most of the developed countries including the US and the UK are reporting that the predominant type of SARS-COV-2 virus existing in their population is the Delta VOC in July of 2021. This has occurred even in the US where 50% or more of its population is completely immunized against SARS-COV-2 virus by the best possible vaccines manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson. Nonetheless, overall, the US is winning the war against the virus as the number of cases, hospitalizations as well as deaths have declined by several folds since the vaccine has been rapidly rolled out in the population. The public in the US was out and about without much restrictions to enjoy the July 4 holiday weekend throughout the country. It is predicted that while SARS-COV-2 will become an endemic, meaning it will continue to exist in the world in the near future; at least in the developed world, it will create less turmoil and perhaps will be treated like a simple flu virus with regular, yearly vaccine administration.
The situation in Pakistan is a bit incomprehensible. Why hasn’t theSARS-COV-2 exhausted the Pakistani health system until now and would Delta VOC finally catch up with the resistance shown by the Pakistanis against this virus? The Pakistani government has created a National Command and Control Center (NCC), which has tried its best, considering the ground realities in Pakistan to nip the virus in the bud by enforcing the so-called smart lockdowns and continuous efforts at educating the public. By recent reports, up to half-a-million vaccines are being administered in Pakistan daily, although no more than 5 % of the population has been completely vaccinated. Delta VOC has also emerged as the predominant SARS-COv-2 virus in Pakistan.
A recent uptick of SARS-COV-19 in Pakistan is of concern with the Health Ministry Platform in Pakistan documenting on an average more than 2,000 infections daily and 5% or more test positivity rate in the country, but a staggering 25 % test positivity rate in Karachi. It has also been reported that the hospitals are near exhaustion in Karachi due to the burden of the virus. Nonetheless, it needs to be realized that unlike developed countries, most of the Pakistanis live together in their homes with their extended families, besides being packed like sardines in their neighborhoods. Finally, a large population of Pakistan is dependent upon daily wages to earn their two square meals. Indeed, any attempt to completely lockdown Pakistan is bound to fail.
The NCC should continue to monitor the situation in Pakistan like a hawk and impose smart lockdowns, close schools and restaurants as well as avoid overcrowding as much as possible considering the ground socio-economic situation in Pakistan. Vaccination efforts must continue at a faster pace as vaccines have shown the most promise in curbing this virus. It appears that the threat imposed by Delta variant of SARS-COV-2 this summer shall pass as somehow things never went out of control in Pakistan.
Dr. Abdul Nadir M.D. is an Assistant Professor at University of Arizona, U.S. He is the head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Maroof International Hospital, Islamabad.