Many patients who are hospitalized have underlying health conditions like diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure, which are risk factors for serious illness, he said. However, some younger patients do not have any of these risk factors.
“That really scares me,” he said. “It hits younger healthy people who you wouldn’t believe would respond so badly to the disease.” They often need to recover longer, added Dr. Coulter, and some will have permanent lung damage.
The Delta variant is relatively new in the United States, and evidence is still mounting as to whether and how it behaves differently. It’s more contagious, experts agree. Some studies have shown that infected people can carry the variant in large quantities in their airways.
The variant can also cause more serious illnesses, some researchers have suggested. A study in Scotland published in The Lancet looked at Covid cases in the spring when Delta became the dominant strain in that country.
Patients infected with the variant were almost twice as likely to be hospitalized compared to those infected with the earlier alpha variant. The patients were also younger, presumably because they were last vaccinated, the authors said.
In a preliminary study published online and not yet peer reviewed, Canadian researchers found that the risk of being admitted to the intensive care unit was almost four times higher in patients with the Delta variant than in those infected with other variants. Patients with the Delta variant had twice the risk of hospitalization or death.
Research in Singapore to be published in The Lancet concluded that patients with the Delta variant were more likely to need oxygen, need intensive care, or die. And a study in India, which was also put online and not yet peer-reviewed, found that in the second wave of infections, when the Delta variant was dominant, patients had a higher risk of death, especially under 45 years of age.