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As the delta variant spreads, a doctor answers your top questions

This as some businesses and mayors are encouraging mask use in all other indoor public spaces, despite vaccination status.

MINNEAPOLIS — Dr. Hannah Lichtsinn is an internist and pediatrician at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis who is trying to educate the community about COVID-19, the new variants and the vaccine. 

As the delta variant continues to spread KARE 11's Jennifer Hoff asked Lichtsinn to answer some of your top questions. 

Q: One of the big questions people have is, is the delta variant more deadly?

"Like every strain of COVID-19, the delta variant is potentially deadly to people with higher risk conditions," said Dr. Lichtsinn. "What makes delta variant unique is it spreads more quickly and so I don’t think we’ve had enough time pass to know if the virus itself, once someone has it, is more deadly, but from a community standpoint it is because it spreads so quickly."

Where the heck did the delta variant come from?

"This virus, like any virus, mutates within people who have it and so there are constant mutations," said Dr. Lichstsinn. "I don’t know where this particular mutation started from, but it was such a successful mutation from the virus’ perspective that when it did start, it spread really effectively."

Can the delta variant impact children, many of whom can’t get the vaccine yet?

"The delta variant can impact kids, directly giving them the virus, and we are seeing in children’s hospitals, in certain parts of the country, fill up with kids who have coronavirus right now," said Dr. Lichstinn. "We don’t know if it’s specifically because of the nature of this strain of variant or it’s just so virulent that kids are getting swept up among everybody else."

Are masks effective against the delta variant?

"Yes, thank goodness, and just like with previous strains of the coronavirus, masks are effective at preventing spread," explained Dr. Lichstinn. "The virus still moves from one person to another through air spread and that’s why masks are such a great form of protection."

Are there different symptoms people should know about when we’re talking about delta?

"There are no different symptoms, especially in adults. We’re seeing all those same clusters of symptoms - the respiratory symptoms, fever, sore throat, cough, body aches," said Dr. Lichstinn. "In kids, they described some increase in gastrointestinal symptoms, so diarrhea has been noted more commonly." She went on to say, "The one thing that sets delta apart is the time from exposure to symptoms is a little bit shorter, so that can be a helpful thing because you’re more likely to know when you got it and spread it to fewer people."

Do we know if the delta variant is killing people?

"Yes, we do know that. We know people are dying from COVID-19 in Minnesota and throughout the country and the world," said Dr. Lichstinn. "Right now, delta variant is the predominant form of COVID-19 so one could assume or expect without that next level of testing, that someone who catches COVID-19 right now in our state, it’s the delta variant."

What didn’t I cover (that) you think someone should know about?

"I would just say I recognize that people have hesitation about getting the vaccine for a lot of different reasons and it’s more important now than ever to go out and get vaccinated against COVID-19," said Dr. Lichstinn. "With delta variant spreading, it is the best protection you have for yourself, your family and community."

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