How to protect yourself from Delta variant: Mask, face shield, distancing, vaccine, more info

Published July 30, 2021, 7:01 PM

by Pinky Colmenares

The Delta variant is here.

The Department of Health (DOH) reported the first two cases of the Delta variant (B1617.2) in the Philippines last May 11, from returning overseas Filipino workers, and the first 1

1 local cases last July 16.

On Thursday, July 29, the DOH recorded 97 new cases of Delta variant, 88 of them local infections. The total number of Delta variant cases in the country as of that date stood at 216 as of July 30.

Getting to know the enemy – in this case, the Delta variant – is a way to get protection against it.  But before we enumerate what we now know about the Delta variant, be aware of what the DOH and private experts say about protecting yourself.

“The best combination for protecting yourself and your loved ones is to use ALL the tools available to us,” Dr. Edsel Salvana, infectious disease doctor and director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, UP – National Institutes of Health, said in his Facebook page on July 29.

Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvana

From his Facebook post, he lists under “good news” the following:

“1. Face mask + face shield + physical distance’ WORKS and can interrupt transmission.

“2. All our vaccines still prevent severe disease and death. Most breakthrough infections are asymptomatic or mild.

“3. The spread locally is steady, but not yet exponential. We can still temper its spread and the increase in the number of cases.

From the same post, Dr. Salvana lists the “bad news” about the Delta variant:

“1. It has 1,000-fold higher viral load than the old virus and is three times more contagious.

“2. It can jump from one person to another in a matter of minutes, no need to wait up to 15 minutes.

“3. It becomes contagious earlier in asymptomatic patients.

“4. Disease can be more severe, even in young people.

“5. Vaccines seem to be less effective for preventing clinical disease.”

Here’s more information on the Delta variant from Dr. Salvana’s column in the Manila Bulletin- “The evolution of a killer and how best to defeat it.”

‘Face mask, face shield, and physical distance remain the cornerstones of protection,’ Dr. Salvana.

“The Delta variant was determined with three variants — B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2, and B.1.617.3. Among these, B.1.617.2 was the most concerning because it seemed to be the most contagious.

“Over time, B.1.617.2 was recognized as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. It was given the designation “Delta” variant in accordance with the new convention of WHO to avoid naming variants from the places they were first discovered as a way to prevent stigma.

“Even as it caused surges across the world, it has mutated again into a “Delta plus” variant.

“Delta plus, or B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1, is pretty much the Delta variant with one more mutation of concern. The K417N mutation on the spike protein may help it evade immune responses. This has not yet been confirmed, but if proven, it will add yet another dimension to the already dangerous repertoire of the original Delta variant.”

“Face mask, face shield, and physical distance remain the cornerstones of protection, especially for the unvaccinated. With reports of transmission of the Delta variant with fleeting contact much less than the usual 15 minutes of close contact, each added layer of protection can mean the difference between containment and an outbreak. Finally, vaccinations seem to still work very well against the Delta variant for as long as one is fully vaccinated.”

Here’s some information that answers some common fake news that’s being passed on in social media, which adds to the anxiety of the situation.  In his column in the Manila Bulletin, Dr. Salvana had explained common topics:

“1. Are the people who are getting sick vaccinated or unvaccinated?

This is a real no-brainer. For instance, there is currently a surge of Delta cases in Israel. On closer look, unvaccinated people are getting sick at nearly 30 times higher rates than those who are vaccinated. Vaccinated people with breakthrough infections are usually asymptomatic or have mild disease and do not need hospitalization.

‘All our vaccines still prevent severe disease and death. Most breakthrough infections are asymptomatic or mild,’ Dr. Salvana.

“2. What is the denominator?

There was an inflammatory article about Indonesian healthcare workers getting sick after a Sinovac jab with “dozens” getting hospitalized. What it leaves out is that over 5,000 healthcare workers were vaccinated in the outbreak area. How many were exposed? How many unvaccinated people got sick? What are the exact numbers of those who got sick, those who got hospitalized, and those who died? Were they partially or fully vaccinated? If it is true that 5,000 healthcare workers were exposed but only 350 got sick, then effectiveness is still over 90 percent.

Fake news plus Delta can kill

“Disinformation and misinformation are spreading at a fever pitch. Fake news, combined with the Delta variant, can kill a lot of people. Vaccines are a public good and they all work, as long as one is fully vaccinated. Combining best practices for keeping the Delta variant out and maintaining vaccine confidence are the keys to victory. The virus may do its best to change, but it will not withstand a sustained onslaught of science-based interventions.”