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NDDoH reminds public to take precautions amid Delta variant concerns

BISMARCK, N.D. – As the Delta variant of COVID-19 has recently emerged as the dominant strain in the United States, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) reminds the public of the importance of prevention measures and vaccinations to reduce the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

COVID-19, including the Delta variant, is present and spreading in North Dakota communities. Individuals who are not feeling well are encouraged to stay home and seek out a COVID-19 testing opportunity.

Preventative measures such as testing, isolating, masking and social distancing have worked to slow the spread of the virus. Individuals should continue to practice these measures. While these practices continue to be important, vaccines are the best defense against COVID-19. 

By getting vaccinated individuals are protecting not only themselves but their communities. They are also playing a critical role in stopping COVID-19 from mutating to other stronger, more dangerous variants.

The Delta variant or B.1.617.2 strain is a variant that has been cited as the “fittest and fastest” variant of COVID-19 to date. It has been found to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. Some studies suggest that the Delta variant also increases an individual’s risk of having severe outcomes after COVID-19 infection. 

“Of particular concern with the Delta variant is that it appears this variant is affecting younger populations,” said Kirby Kruger, disease control and forensic pathology section chief for the NDDoH. “This variant, with its increased infectiousness coupled with a large percentage of people not vaccinated, may lead to more cases of COVID-19, increased hospitalizations and potentially more deaths.” 

Reports out of the United Kingdom are showing children and adults aged 5-49 years are two and a half times more likely to become infected with the Delta variant compared with those 50 years or older. This highlights the importance of all individuals, not just those at increased risk, getting vaccinated. It also reiterates the importance of masking and social distancing for those unable to be vaccinated. 

With children under the age of 12 not yet able to get vaccinated, it is important for those who are able to be vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. People who are not vaccinated and cannot be vaccinated are recommended to mask and social distance in public. 

“Early research shows the vaccines available in the United States Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, do offer protection against the Delta variant,” said Molly Howell, immunization director for the NDDoH. “On the contrary, people who have not been fully vaccinated, or those who are only partially vaccinated (one dose of Pfizer or Moderna), are at highest risk of being infected by the Delta variant.” 

“To date, 20 cases of the Delta variant have been documented in North Dakota. Given that this variant is much more highly transmissible, it may be playing a role in the increased infection rate observed within the state in the last 14 days. Of particular concern is the increase in the hospitalization rate of younger adults aged 20 to 29, which ranged from 0.4% in March 2021 to 3.4% of cases in June 2021. Additionally, COVID-19 cases are about eight times more prevalent in unvaccinated individuals compared to those who are fully vaccinated in North Dakota,” said Grace Njau, special projects & health analytics director for the NDDoH.

COVID-19 testing locations, test results, and care information can be found on the Testing and Carepage. Information on COVID-19 vaccine providers and clinics near you can be found on the COVID Vaccine Locator page. 

Individuals can also contact the NDDoH public health hotline at 1-866-207-2880 for questions related to COVID-19, and for assistance in scheduling a vaccine appointment.