FACT CHECK: No, The Delta Variant Is Not The Common Cold

Ryan King | Contributor

A post shared on Facebook claims the Delta variant is the common cold.

Verdict: False

The Delta variant is a strain of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is distinct from coronaviruses that cause the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fact Check:

The Delta variant has led to an increase of COVID-19 cases, resulting in the CDC updating its guidelines to say that vaccinated Americans should wear masks while in indoor public spaces in areas of high transmission, The New York Times reported. The CDC estimates the Delta variant is responsible for nearly 83 percent of recent sequenced COVID-19 cases, according to CNBC.

A July 27 Facebook post attempts to equate the Delta variant to the common cold, saying, “The delta variant is the common cold.” That, however, is inaccurate.

There are seven coronaviruses that affect humans. While some coronaviruses do, according to the CDC website, cause common head and chest colds, SARS-CoV-2 variants are distinct and more serious. The CDC has previously stated that “the virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illnesses, like the common cold,” Check Your Fact reported last year.

Viruses naturally change through mutation, and the Delta variant is a strain of SARS-CoV-2 that was first detected in India last year. Symptoms of the Delta variant are generally the same as other COVID-19 virus strains, the Wall Street Journal reported, and can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches and temporary loss of taste and smell.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies the Delta variant as a “variant of concern,” which means in addition to meeting the definition of a “variant of interest,” the variant has been associated with an “increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology,” an “increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation” or a “decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics,” according to the WHO.

The common cold is most commonly caused by rhinoviruses, according to the Mayo Clinic. A rhinovirus is a “completely different type of virus from a Coronavirus,” Dr. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, explained to Check Your Fact via email.

“While ‘the common cold’ is caused by rhinoviruses, there are a bunch of viruses that cause very similar respiratory illnesses and some are coronaviruses,” Hanage said. “SARS-CoV-2 is a betacoronavirus, and there are two other betacoronaviruses known that infect humans and cause in the main mild, cold like illnesses (there are also two betacoronaviruses that infect humans and make them seriously ill: MERS-CoV and the original SARS).”

Hanage told Check Your Fact it is “very misleading” to characterize the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 as the common cold. (RELATED: No, The COVID-19 Delta Variant Is Not Fake)

“The Delta variant causes more serious illness in unvaccinated people, and so it is very misleading to characterize it as ‘like the common cold,'” Hanage also said in the email. “However in vaccinated people, the nature of breakthrough Delta disease is mild and much closer to the common cold. So this is another reason for people to get vaccinated.”

Ryan King



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