What parents should know about the Delta variant
The Delta variant is now the second most dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States and expected to soon become the most dominant. What does this mean for children, especially those who are too young to be vaccinated? Lurie Children's infectious diseases experts answer common questions.
Although symptoms of the Delta variant are similar to those seen in the original stains of coronavirus, the Delta variant is more transmissible than other variants. Therefore, if unvaccinated, it is easier to catch the Delta variant compared to the other variants. Children may be more likely to get COVID-19 symptoms with this variant, but this has not yet been proven.
"People need to recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over and the Delta variant is known to be more transmissible. It can occur in any age group and especially be a problem in those persons who are too young to be vaccinated or who are unvaccinated," says Dr. Tina Tan, Infectious Diseases physician at Lurie Children's.
While experts and scientists are still looking closely at the data, in general, disease severity with the Delta strain is the same as other strains of COVID. "Remember in most cases, children will have more mild illness," Tan said.
What should parents do if they have children younger than 12?
"What puts children at higher risk is the fact that they are now out and about and often unmasked and unvaccinated. With everything opening back up and more transmissible strains circulating, if community activity picks up, children are a vulnerable population," says Dr. Larry Kociolek, Infectious Diseases physician and associate medical director, Infection Prevention and Control at Lurie Children's.
The majority of Delta variant infections are in those individuals who are unvaccinated. If your child is too young to be vaccinated, Lurie Children's experts recommend continuing with mitigation protocols: wear a mask, socially distance and practice good hand hygiene. "We know these methods have worked throughout the pandemic and it should be no different now," Tan said.
Experts also urge all individuals who can get the vaccine to get vaccinated. According to Public Health England, early research is showing that current COVID-19 vaccines are largely effective against disease and hospitalization for the Delta variant.
Currently, scientists are researching whether a booster dose will be needed for further protection. For more information on COVID-19 variants, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant.html.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. For more information, visit www.LurieChildrens.org.