UNMC infectious disease specialist illustrates what you need to know about the delta variant

Posted at 6:46 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 19:46:47-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As COVID-19 cases increase in Nebraska one UNMC physician gives insight on the delta variant and how it impacts the human body.

Animation by animation, Dr. James Lawler broke down how the virus takes over a cell.

Lawler demonstrated how the delta variant infects the body while transmitting it to others, producing hundreds of thousands of new virus particles.

"Then they come out of the cell, and go on to affect other cells, each cell infected with a virus that is then hijacked to become a virus factory," Lawler said.

Lawler also showed the most protective measure for an immune system to generate for infection: antibodies.

The antibodies prevent cell infection and prevent the virus from replicating and becoming a virus factory.

"Vaccinations provide by far the highest levels of antibodies for COVID-19, even compared to natural infection," Lawler said.

He also showed CT scans of what healthy lungs should look like compared to the damaged lungs of a COVID patient who was hospitalized and later recovered.

"You can see the extensive amount of damage, there is scarring and fibrosis and inflammation throughout this lung," Lawler said.

The doctor, who is a widely recognized public health and infectious expert, is gravely concerned for the future.

"I'm concerned this is going to be the worst phase of the pandemic for much of the US, particularly for states like ours that have low vaccination rates," Lawler said.

It's a daunting reminder of the challenges still ahead.

"We're gonna keep trying, we're gonna keep talking about the data we have and the facts and hope that people can change their behavior, and that collectively we can work on re-instituting many of these protections that got us through the fall and winter wave," Lawler said.

Dr. Lawler says Nebraska is 3 to 4 weeks behind many of the states that first experienced a delta surge. He expects to see continued growth.

He also says the delta variant causes around two or even three times the rate of hospitalizations and ICU admissions for a typical person compared to older versions of the virus. It not only spreads more easily, but it also causes more severe disease.


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