Here’s what ‘viral load’ means when it comes to COVID-19

Highly contagious delta variant contains more virus than previous variants

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – As researchers continue to study COVID-19 and the delta variant, health officials continue to talk about “the viral load” of the highly contagious variant.

Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty helped explain what that means.

“It’s something that we started talking about with HIV, was viral load and you’d see how much virus somebody had in them,” Husty said. “It’s sort of a measure of how much activity does the virus have right now. So how much virus is in us.”

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Essentially, the delta variant carries about 1,000 times more virus than previous variants, according to Husty.

“We have studies that have now shown that even on the first swab on somebody with a delta variant you’re seeing almost a 1,000 fold increase in the amount of virus,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, a senior policy advisor for the White House COVID-19 response team.

With the delta variant increasingly making its way across the country, Husty said he wasn’t surprised to see this new surge of COVID-19 patients at hospitals across Central Florida.

“With the delta variant it’s much more communicable --that was a bit of a shock at how communicable it was -- but did the surge surprise me? And the answer is no. Because we stopped doing all the things that we were supposed to do to keep the virus down,” Husty said.

And while there have been reported infection cases of people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, known as breakthrough cases, Husty said those cases should not deter people from getting the vaccine shot.

“Just because we have breakthrough cases doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get vaccinated because most people have a great advantage to being vaccinated, one is you’re probably not gonna get the disease, two is if you get it it’s gonna be mild,” Husty said. “And there are studies from all over the world that are supporting that even with the delta variant.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said recent studies show rare breakthrough cases who contract the delta variant can actually still infect others with the virus.

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About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.