(MENAFN- Newsroom Panama) The detection of the first case of community circulation of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in Chiriquí province will change the epidemiological scenario of the country in weeks since it is expected to become the dominant virus replacing the Alpha variant which emerged in the UK.
Since the Delta variant originated at the end of last year in India, it has expanded to a hundred countries and its circulation is dominant in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other nations of Europe.
The Ministry of Health (Minsa) confirmed the community case in Chiriquí, but another 16 among travelers; four of them arriving by sea in the province of Colón, and 11 at the Tocumen International Airport. The community case occurred in a 14-year-old boy with no travel history.
Panamanian scientists agree that it is very likely that more cases with the Delta lineage will be found in the country at the community level, due to its rapid transmission capacity, similar to chickenpox, that is, each infected person, on average, infects others eight or nine people.
Eduardo Ortega Barría, advisor to the Covid-19 Panama Vaccine Research Consortium and National Secretary of Science, Technology, and Innovation, stated that it is possible that the variant has been circulating in the country with very low transmission, so it could escape genomic detection carried out by the Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies (Icges)
He said that, in weeks, its circulation will progressively increase, so it is very important to maintain biosafety measures and the use of the mask.
The scientist argued that the population should continue to be vaccinated, as well as genomic surveillance, to know the percentage of transmission of the Delta variant in the country.
Minsa reports show that 54.6% of the target population, that is, 3 million people, already has a dose of the vaccine against the Covid-19 disease, while 17.1% have both doses.
According to a study published on July 21 in The New England Journal of Medicine , the two vaccines used in Panama - Pfizer / BioNTech and AstraZeneca - are highly effective against the Delta and Alpha variants, with the two doses.
The Delta lineage, considered "of concern" by the World Health Organization, has particular characteristics that differentiate it from the other variants that have emerged during the pandemic.
The infectologist, pediatrician Xavier Sáez-Llorens, explained that the viral load in the upper airway of the respiratory tract tends to be higher with Delta than with other variants (at least 1,000 times), which means 50% higher transmissibility than with the Alpha variant and almost 100% higher than with the original strain.
Another characteristic is that it has been observed that those infected with Delta can be contagious 1-2 days earlier than with other variants, but also that the elimination of the virus from the nasopharynx occurs more quickly, Hence, the importance of early detection of infection and rapid isolation of the case and its close contacts, he said.
Scientists observe that a well-vaccinated person has a greater risk of being infected with Delta than with all the previous variants. Therefore, the recommendation is that while the country does not achieve herd immunity it is preferable to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Sáez-Llorens specified that, fortunately, the risk of infection is notoriously lower (6-8 times and depends on the active circulation of Delta in the community, and risk factors of the vaccinated) than in unvaccinated people. If infected, the vaccinated person has a significantly lower probability of hospitalization and a much lower risk of death than the unvaccinated individual, - the fundamental objective of any vaccine, he stressed.
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