Why is the delta variant so much more dangerous than previous variants?

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As thousands of Oklahomans are testing positive for COVID-19 each day, local doctors are stressing how dangerous the delta variant can be.

On Thursday, data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows that the state has had 557,770 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March of 2020.

That’s an increase of 3,274 cases since Wednesday, Sept. 1.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma has seen 9,253 deaths as of Thursday.

“The World Health Organization calls the delta variant the fastest and the fittest that we’ve seen. Delta has a particular set of mutations in the spike protein that make it extremely effective at attaching to human cells and gaining entry. So the analogy is if previous variants were covered in syrup, the delta variant is covered in Gorilla Glue. Two recent publications have come out that demonstrate that the viral loads in the back of the throat of patients infected with the delta variant is 1,000 times higher than in patients who were infected with other variants. So it multiplies rapidly and it’s stickier. So when you couple those two things, higher viral load and glue-like stickiness, that’s what make it more infectious. Which is why we’ve seen it spread from surrounding states into the northeast region of Oklahoma first and now southward,” said Dr. Julie Watson, Chief Medical Officer for INTEGRIS Health.

Since the delta variant comes with a higher viral load, Dr. Watson says one delta patient can infect several others.

“The R-Naught value is something to know about and be aware of. This value reflects the infectivity of a certain variant. Previous versions of COVID-19 had an R-Naught value of two to two-and-a-half, which means for every one infected person, they could infect another two to two-and-a-half people. But the delta variant is eight. So one infected person with delta can infect eight people,” she said.

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