A new and more dangerous variant of COVID-19 has been identified by the World Health Organisation known as Delta Variant.
According to the Ghana Health Service (GHS), six Delta variants of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) have been detected in the country. This has raised a lot of concerns about citizens’ safety and the country’s fight against the deadly virus.
What is it Delta variant?
Also known as B.1.617.2, the Delta variant is a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus. According to the World Health Organisation, it is the fastest and fittest coronavirus strain.
How did the Delta variant come about?
According to Nature, a research international weekly journal of science, the Delta variant has been linked to a resurgence of COVID-19 in Nepal and Southeast Asia especially in India and its surrounding countries. Delta is about 60% more transmissible than the already highly infectious Alpha variant (also called B.1.1.7) identified in the United Kingdom in late 2020. It has been detected in at least 80 countries.
How deadly is the Delta variant?
The Delta Variant is more contagious and resistant to vaccines than the Alpha variant which is circulating in the U.S. and dominant in most countries. The Delta variant also carries a greater risk of hospitalisation.
The highly infectious Delta variant of Covid-19 is likely to become the dominant strain of coronavirus in the U.S., CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky has said.
The Delta variant is more transmissible than the already highly infectious Alpha variant (also called B.1.1.7). Delta is moderately resistant to vaccines, particularly in people who have received just a single dose.
A Public Health England study published on May 22 found that a single dose of either AstraZeneca’s or Pfizer’s vaccine reduced a person’s risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms caused by the Delta variant by 33%, compared to 50% for the Alpha variant. A second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine boosted protection against Delta to 60% (compared to 66% against Alpha), while two doses of Pfizer’s jab were 88% effective (compared to 93% against Alpha).
Preliminary evidence from England and Scotland suggests that people infected with Delta are about twice as likely to end up in the hospital, compared with those infected with Alpha.
Other evidence suggests that the variant may be able to partially evade the antibodies made by the body after a coronavirus infection or vaccination. And the variant may also render certain monoclonal antibody treatments less effective, the US CDC notes.
Delta may also cause more severe illness. A recent Scottish study, for instance, found that people infected by the Delta variant were roughly twice as likely to be hospitalised as were those infected with the Alpha variant. But uncertainties remain, scientists say.
How Delta variant entered Ghana?
A statement signed by the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, and issued on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, said as of now Ghana has detected six Delta variants of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) from all samples taken between April and June 2021 at the ports of entry.
“No Delta variant has been detected from samples taken from cases in the community,” the statement said.
In a radio interview on Accra based Citi FM on Tuesday, the Head of West Africa Center for Cell Biology and Infectious Pathogens at the University of Ghana, Professor Gordon Awendare, said Delta was detected in two travellers who arrived in Ghana in the last two weeks.
They arrived from different countries at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, he said. The two people have since been quarantined and will continue to be on quarantine until they are negative.
Prof Awendane said even though the Delta variant [Indian variant] has been detected, it is not yet in the general population.
“The general population we still have mostly the UK variant which is the Alpha. So if you are deploying Sputnik and AstraZeneca, it is fine for now,” he said.
If I’m vaccinated, do I need to worry about the Delta Variant?
The Delta variant is unlikely to pose much risk to people who have been fully vaccinated, experts say.
According to one recent study, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88 per cent effective at protecting against symptomatic disease caused by Delta. But a single dose of the vaccine was just 33 per cent effective against Delta, the study found.
“Fully immunized individuals should do well with this new phase of the epidemic,” said Dr Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “However, the protection offered by a single dose appears low, and of course if you are not at all vaccinated, consider yourself at high risk.”
This report is produced under the project: COVID-19 Response in Africa: Together for Reliable Information being implemented with funding support from the European Union