HERE'S TO YOUR HEALTH: COVID-19 in autumn 2021 — could it be 'deja vu all over again?'
We are just about 18 months into the Covid-19 pandemic (1½ years, but sometimes it feels like forever). At this point, you would think we would have this virus all figured out—but Covid continues to change the rules. The reason is that viruses mutate — they change to look somewhat different — in an effort to outsmart our immune systems. Sometimes, it can mutate into a “bug” that is harder to kill, sometimes, it can mutate into something that allows it to infect you a second time, and sometimes, it becomes a more efficient virus, that can be more infectious (easier to ”catch” and therefore easier to spread) or more deadly. The Delta variant (the virus once known as the India variant) has done the last two — it is much more infectious (at least double, possibly 10 times more), and it is a bit more deadly, too.
In the world of viruses, the most lethal ones were the bird flu, SARS, MERS, and Ebola. Mercifully, Delta Covid is much less deadly than those frightening epidemics. The most “catch-able” (easiest spread) viruses are Chickenpox and Measles (the most infectious of all). Before vaccinations were available, there were millions of cases of these 2, and tens of thousands of deaths in the case of measles. Delta Covid is as contagious as Chickenpox at this point. It is more “catch-able” than the common cold, seasonal flu, and the original Covid.
What if you've had the vaccine?
If you have been vaccinated, you have done the best thing you can do to prevent Delta Covid.
No vaccine is perfect, and some people who have been vaccinated are getting sick with Delta Covid. However, very few are getting sick enough to be hospitalized, and even fewer are dying. So, it looks like vaccinated people are getting mild disease, or even asymptomatic disease (they have no symptoms), and most are not getting sick at all. The people who are in the hospital (or the morgue) are 97% – 99% unvaccinated.
The current surges have been happening mainly in Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida — states that have low rates of vaccination.
Once again, the hospitals in these states are filling up with Covid patients. There are more young people and children this time around, because fewer of them have been vaccinated.
What about if you already had Covid?
The data are less specific, but you likely have some immunity. I'm not sure I'd bank on that immunity if, for example, you became infected with Covid in the summer or spring of 2020 (that is, a year ago or more). The recommendation is to get the shot even if you've had Covid already.
So, what is happening locally?
So far, it appears that Delta Covid has not visited us yet in Yates County. Our numbers, blessedly, remain low. This is good for many reasons. For now, we don't have to fret rapid spread of Delta. But, it IS coming, just like the original Covid. For a while last year, we had no cases. Eventually, however, Covid arrived, and so will Delta Covid. When it does arrive, it will find many unvaccinated people to infect. BUT, there is still time to prepare for Delta Covid and get the vaccine. Don't wait for the virus to be spreading before you get your vaccine. It takes five to six weeks to develop full immunity. Get vaccinated NOW.
What happens if lots of people don't get the shot?
Remember social distancing and masking? They work to prevent spread, and they are already starting to come back in some areas. There is already a recommendation even for vaccinated people to wear masks when indoors. That's because vaccinated people — even if they are not sick — can spread the virus as easily as unvaccinated people. And yes, I've started wearing my mask indoors again.
But, it doesn't have to be this way. If we can get everyone on board with vaccination, we can reach herd immunity, and no one will need a mask! So, please, do it for yourself, your family, your children and grandchildren who are too young to be vaccinated, and for your community. Don't hesitate, instead vaccinate — the sooner the better.
Here's To Your Health!
Dr. Wayne Strouse is a Family Practicioner with Finger Lakes Community Health in Penn Yan.