Health care's concern for Delta variant


PINEDALE – COVID-19 cases surged up to 70 percent in parts of the United States last week, with hospitalizations up 36 percent, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention reported. The agency attributed the new Delta variant as contributing factor.

The COVID-19 Delta variant is a concern in Wyoming, said Sublette County Public Health Officer Dr. Brendan Fitzsimmons.

The Delta variant is three times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain and able to spread more effectively from person to person, said Fitzsimmons.

Initial reports indicate that the Delta variant is deadlier. The Delta variant may be one-and-a-half times more likely to cause death, Fitzsimmons added.

COVID-19 cases spiked last week in Sublette County. On Monday, July 19, there were no confirmed cases of the Delta variant in Sublette County. This may change as test results return from the state later this week, Fitzsimmons said.

Janna Lee, public health nurse, explained that the Sublette County Hospital District’s COVID-19 testing equipment can rapidly determine a positive or negative case of the virus. The test is unable to detect genetic variations present in the Delta variant and the lab in Pinedale is sending all positive test results to the state, Lee added.

The results from the tests will not likely to be available until the end of this week, Lee said.

Fitzsimmons said on Saturday that the Delta variant “is on the way to predominance” in Laramie, Sweetwater and Teton counties. The Casper Star-Tribune reported the emergence of the Delta variant in Wyoming on June 23, with most cases in Laramie County and additional positives in Natrona, Fremont, Sweetwater and Albany counties.

Delta variation symptoms seem to differ from the original COVID-19 strain, Fitzsimmons stated. Symptoms include a sore throat, nasal congestion, cough and gastro-intestinal problems, Fitzsimmons told the Examiner.

Mutations in viruses like COVID-19 are natural as the virus adapts to the environment around it, Fitzsimmons explained. The viruses’s goal is to infect more people, he said.

The variant involves small changes to the genetic code on the virus’s spike protein, according to Fitzsimmons. The spike protein determines how effectively the virus attaches to human tissue.

In Wyoming, there are a few cases where people became re-infected with COVID-19 through the Delta variant or came down with the illness after getting vaccinated. A significant majority of new cases causing severe illness, hospitalization and death, however, are affecting people that are not vaccinated, Fitzsimmons stated.

The COVID-19 vaccine remains the best prevention against severe illness, Fitzsimmons said. Higher rates of vaccination also make it more difficult for the COVID-19 virus to spread and continue mutating, he added.

“The vaccine is the best thing we as a society can do and the best thing individuals can do,” Fitzsimmons told the Examiner. “Please, please, please get vaccinated.”

People experiencing possible symptoms of the Delta variant – sore throat, nasal congestion, cough and gastro-intestinal problems – are encouraged to contact the clinics to get tested, Lee stated. Patients that are not insured or underinsured qualify for the voucher to receive a free test, Lee added.

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