A social media post going viral on the internet contains several false and misleading claims on the Delta variant of COVID-19, the highly infectious, new strain of the novel coronavirus that is raising alarm all over the world.
The post starts talking about the "new" symptoms of the Delta variant and then goes on to claim that it is has a higher death rate. The post also talks about the effects of the variant on people and also claims that it gives more false positives.
We found that while some advice given in the post was in line with the health ministry's guidelines, several claims made in the post were false or misleading.
The viral post is titled, "USE DOUBLE MASKS COZ NEW COVID-DELTA IS DIFFERENT, DEADLY & UNDETECTABLE".
"With the new COVID DELTA VIRUS there is:
Just a lot of:
UPPER BACK PAIN
COVID-DELTA is of course, more virulent and with a higher death rate," the post says.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
The Delta variant (B.1.617.2) contains mutations from two separate variants and was first declared as a variant of global concern in May by the World Health Organization (WHO). Studies say the variant is 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha strain identified in the UK.
CLAIM 1: Symptoms of Delta Variant of COVID-19 Don't Include Cough and Fever
The first half of the post claims that the Delta variant has new symptoms and some symptoms of the original strain like the cough and fever are no longer seen when a person is infected with this variant.
While it has been found that the Delta variant has some new symptoms, it is not true that fever and cough are not reported because of this variant.
Data collected from the United Kingdom by app-based Zoe Covid symptom study suggested that headaches, a sore throat and a runny nose are the most common symptoms now. Delta variant, which has spread to 98 countries now, comprises 91 percent of the new cases in the UK.
According to the data, the classic COVID-19 symptoms like cough is now the fifth most common one and loss of smell didn't make it in the top ten.
Some of the other symptoms mentioned in the viral post such as joint pain, back pain etc were noted during the previous variants as well and are not unique to the Delta variant.
CLAIM 2: Delta Variant is Deadlier
Data released by Public Health England (PHE) in June suggested that the the Delta variant is associated with a higher risk of hospitalisation compared to Alpha.
According to the PHE data, 117 people out of 92,056 people infected with the Delta variant in the UK had died up to 21 June. That puts the fatality rate - 0.1 percent - lower than other variants.
However, PHE said that it was still too early to say if the variant is deadlier than the other variants and have said that increased cases of hospitalisations could overwhelm the system and make the disease worse.
The Delta variant is known to make the COVID vaccines less effective, but the vaccines are still effective in preventing hospitalisation and deaths due to the variant.
The viral post also incorrectly claims that the virus moves directly to the lungs in case of the Delta variant. There is no evidence to prove that this is the case, neither does that mean it is more deadly.
In a press briefing on 27 June, the head of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) Dr NK Arora said that the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19 (a mutation found on the Delta variant) has a greater affinity towards lung issues as compared to other strains.
However, he clarified that it does not mean that it can cause severe lung disease.
“Delta plus is having greater affinity to mucosal lining in the lungs, higher compared to other variants, but if it causes damage or not is not clear yet. It also does not mean that this variant will cause more severe disease or it is more transmissible,” Dr Arora told news agency PTI.
CLAIM 3: The Variant Returns Negative/False Negative RTPCR Tests
According to Health Desk, a COVID-19 resource for journalists powered by public health experts, “All tests taken for the Delta variant, including ones that come back positive, are swabbed from the "nasopharyngeal region" in our noses. There is currently no current research that says the Delta variant is not being detected in the nasopharyngeal region."
Dr Anurag Agarwal, Director, Institute of Genomics and Interactive Biology, IISC, also said that the claim that the Delta variant was giving false positives was false.
Speaking at a public interaction, Dr Agarwal said that coronavirus genomes are sequenced around the world and "no mutant variant could escape the the double gene test".
"People have to understand that the sensitivity of an RT-PCR test is 70 percent at best and the maximum viral load in the nose and mouth is one day before the symptoms start showing and then reduces gradually. When an individual delays taking the COVID-19 test, the virus would have travelled deeper inside the body and as a result, one might get a negative result from an RT-PCR test," Dr Agarwal said.
The advice given in the viral post about using two masks, maintaining social distancing and washing or sanitising of hands is true and falls in line with the recommendations provided by health authorities across the world. It is important to stop the spread of the virus so that it does not mutate further.
(This story has been published as a part of The Quint’s COVID-19 fact-check project targeting rural women.)
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