HOUSTON – There are new growing concerns surrounding the Delta variant which is surging across the United States. Federal health officials said it appears to cause more serious illness than previously thought, and spreads as easily as chickenpox.
UTMB Health had three coronavirus specialists working in their Level 3 lab well before any of us heard about COVID-19. One of their infectious disease doctors said the delta variant is serious and on the level of chickenpox and measles.
Dr. Scott Weaver, who works inside the Galveston national lab on UTMB’s campus, said he has helped research a number of infectious diseases and says he’s never seen anything quite like the COVID-19 delta variant.
“What we’ve learned recently is that even when we’re infected after vaccination, and we don’t feel sick at all or mild illness, there’s a lot of virus being produced in our upper respiratory tract,” Weaver, Director of the institute for human infections and immunity at UTMB, said.
Weaver says unlike the alpha variant, which was produced in the lungs, the delta variant focuses on the upper respiratory area making it easy to spread among the unvaccinated and vaccinated. An internal CDC document compared the delta variant’s rapid spread to that of chickenpox.
Chickenpox, often recognized by rashes with large pustules all over the body, is less prevalent now in the U.S. because of vaccines, but Weaver says both chickenpox and the delta variant are more severe in adults than younger people. He also says an infected person can spread the delta variant to five people. Dr. Weaver says that’s the same for chickenpox in parts of the world where it’s still prevalent.
Weaver says if you’re not vaccinated, you should consider doing so. And if you are vaccinated, go back to wearing your masks, socially distancing and hand washing.