BILLINGS - If you’ve come down with COVID-19 in the last two months, odds are you contracted the Delta variant.
“We are essentially 100% Delta, and have been for a month or two at least,” said Dr. Michael Bush from St. Vincent Healthcare.
Bush explained recently that although the symptoms are the same, there are some differences between the initial COVID-19 strain and the Delta variant.
Bush says the Delta is probably 10 times more infectious than what we experienced in 2020. That means a difference in the rate of infection, and on top of that people are getting sicker, sooner.
“The Delta variant has such a high viral load early in the infection that from the point of exposure we're seeing people have symptoms develop within 24 to 48 hours, as opposed to three to five days, which is what we were seeing last year,” said Bush.
Data shows the vaccine is making a difference in the higher-risk populations who lined up and got their shots.
Bush said the vaccination rate in those 65 and older in Big Horn County and on the Crow Reservation is over 90%, and Yellowstone County is now over 80%.
So while much of the higher risk population has a degree of protection, the virus is quickly working its way through younger, less protected age groups, including those who don’t have an option to get vaccinated.
“The Delta variant does seem to be more infective in the pediatric population than what we were seeing in 2020. So that’s another change,” Bush said.
These changes and differences don’t and won’t stop with the Delta variant. Bush said there will be other variants because viruses mutate.
“We see that with influenza. COVID doesn't tend, coronaviruses don't tend to mutate as fast as the influenza viruses do, but there will be other variants.
“What I can tell you is that for people that are coming into the hospital, entering our ICU, that type of thing, having been vaccinated is about a 90% guarantee that that won't be you," he said.