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Ask the Expert: What is the COVID-19 Delta variant and how can I protect myself?

By Bailey Smith

The COVID-19 Delta variant is more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain and can be spread by individuals who are fully vaccinated. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Vice President of Medical Affairs for Commercial Products, Lisa Y. Harris, MD, shares the latest information on the Delta variant.

 (The following information is current as of August 10, 2021. Check CDC.gov for updates.)


Dr. Harris, what is the Delta variant? Is it true that it spreads more easily?

 Viruses are constantly mutating or changing. This can lead to new versions of a virus that are known as variants. The Delta variant is a mutation of the COVID-19 virus and from what experts know, is more contagious and spreads more easily than the original strain. It accounts for more than 80% of newly diagnosed cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.

 How does the Delta variant affect those who are unvaccinated versus fully vaccinated?

 Although more contagious, there is no data that suggests the Delta variant causes more serious symptoms than the original COVID-19 strain. The vast majority of people with serious symptoms are unvaccinated. For those who are fully vaccinated, we know that no vaccine grants 100 percent immunity so there will be some breakthrough cases, but the COVID-19 vaccines still greatly reduce the risk of major illness. Symptoms will be milder, and you are less likely to be hospitalized if you are vaccinated.

 How can someone protect themselves from the Delta variant?

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine remains the safest way to protect yourself. If you’ve received the first shot of a two-shot regimen (those from Pfizer and Moderna), make sure to get the second shot since early evidence suggests this is especially important for protecting against the variants. If you are not vaccinated, get the vaccine.

If you can, practice social distancing, wear a mask when near other people, and avoid indoor social gatherings. Even those who are fully vaccinated should consider wearing masks in areas of high transmission. People with a weakened immune system need to be even more careful.

Regardless of your vaccination status, stay home and away from others if you’re feeling ill or have been exposed to COVID-19.

 How can someone protect younger family members? 

 Parents of children ages 12 and older should consider having them vaccinated. The 3 W’s remain a top priority during this pandemic – Wash your hands, Wear a mask and Watch your distance in public.


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