A widely circulated WhatsApp forward falsely claims that the Delta variant of COVID-19 can’t be detected through swab tests.
By Pushpita Dey
“This means that the virus spreads and spreads directly to the lungs, causing acute respiratory distress caused by viral pneumonia. This explains why it has become sharp, more virulent, and deadly!!” reads a WhatsApp message that has been spreading ill-founded fear and panic about the Delta variant of COVID-19.
The widely circulated message claims that people affected by the Delta variant will not have symptoms like cough and fever. Rather there will be symptoms that include a lot of joint pain, headache, neck and upper back pain, general weakness, loss of appetite, and pneumonia. The message also cautions that nasal swab testing cannot detect the virus as it directly attacks the lungs.
Dr. Nikhil Modi, consultant - respiratory and critical care medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, debunks the claim. While he acknowledges that the Delta variant, is 1.6 times more transmissible than contemporary lineages, he points out that it’s wrong to assume that the variant “won’t be there in the nasopharyngeal area and won’t be detected by the tests. The symptoms won’t be much different either.”
Dr. Aditya Agrawal, consultant pulmonologist, Bombay Hospital, Mumbai, concurs that the Delta variant affects the nasopharyngeal region and symptoms could vary, as is the case with all SARS-CoV-2 variants.
What makes the Delta variant a variant of concern is its increased transmissibility. “The original virus with an R naught of 1-2.4 mutated into a Delta variant which has an R naught of about 6 according to data published. Thus previously, one to two people could be infected by one infected person. Now with such high virulence, this virus spread exponentially with each person infected transmitting the infection to up to 6 persons. The viral load is also 1000 times more for the Delta variant,” notes Dr. Aditya.
Globally, while vaccinated people are also getting infected with the Delta variant of COVID-19, recoveries are quicker, without the need for hospitalization in the majority of cases.