COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is a novel coronavirus, one not previously identified in humans, that was responsible for an outbreak of respiratory illness that became a global pandemic in 2020. COVID-19 is different from other coronaviruses that cause mild illness, such as the common cold.
The Delta variant (also referred to as B.1.617.2) of COVID-19 is a newer strain of the virus that appears to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. It was initially identified in India in December 2020 and was first detected in the United States in March 2021. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Delta variant is now the predominant strain in the U.S.
Studies so far indicate that the current coronavirus vaccines are effective against the Delta variant.
COVID-19 Delta Variant Symptoms
The Covid Symptom Study asks patients to report symptoms in an app. Based on self-reported symptoms, the COVID-19 Delta variant may have symptoms that differ slightly from the original coronavirus strain and include:
Cough and loss of smell are less common with the Delta variant compared to the original coronavirus strain.
Other symptoms of COVID-19 may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pain/body aches
- Changes in or loss of sense of taste
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Feeling unwell (malaise)
Emergency warning signs of COVID-19 that require immediate medical attention (call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital’s emergency department):
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Bluish lips or face
- New confusion or inability to arouse
How Is the COVID-19 Delta Variant Diagnosed?
All variants of COVID-19 are diagnosed with a medical history which includes any recent known exposure to COVID-19, and a physical exam to check for symptoms of COVID-19.
If COVID-19 is suspected tests used to diagnose the virus include:
- PCR tests (genetic or molecular test)
- Results can take hours to up to one week
- More accurate than an antigen test
- Antigen test
- Results are available in less than one hour
- Less accurate than a PCR test
An antibody test may be used to determine if a person had a past COVID-19 infection, but it is not used to diagnose current infections because it takes up to 3 weeks following infection for the body to produce antibodies to the virus.
Regular COVID tests do not test for variants. Testing for variants requires genomic sequencing, which not all labs can do and it can be expensive. State health departments may run tests to help determine prevalence of a particular variant in that state, but it is unlikely individual patients would learn which variant they are infected with.
What Is the Treatment for the COVID-19 Delta Variant?
There is currently no cure for COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) and the goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms in mild to moderate cases. Treatment is the same regardless of the infectious variant.
Patients with mild to moderate illness are usually advised to remain home and self-isolate for up to 14 days to avoid spreading the virus. Treatments for mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
- Cough suppressants
Casirivimab/imdevimab (Regen-COV), a monoclonal antibody combination, has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization.
The monoclonal antibody bamlanivimab is no longer used because it is not effective against the Delta strain of the coronavirus.
Monoclonal antibodies are not indicated for use in severe cases.
More severe COVID-19 cases may require hospitalization and treatments may include:
- Convalescent plasma
- Immunoglobulin products
- Interleukin inhibitors
- Kinase inhibitors
- Antiviral therapy with remdesivir
- Antithrombotic therapy: anticoagulants and antiplatelet therapy
- High-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) oxygen
Studies on hydroxychloroquine have shown it to be ineffective in treating COVID-19, with a high risk of fatal heart arrhythmias. Hydroxychloroquine is not recommended to treat COVID-19.
Current guidelines neither recommend nor advise against the use of vitamin C, vitamin D, or zinc for COVID-19. Zinc should not be taken in doses above the recommended daily allowance (RDA) due to the risk of toxicity.
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