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7 Ways Delta Could Infect You, Say Experts

The variant is “more transmissible” than any before it, warn experts.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

We are not in the same old COVID pandemic from last year, even though it can feel like it. In fact, the new Delta variant of the coronavirus is "more dangerous," says the CDC, and "a whole new ballgame," and despite the fact that so many people in the country are vaccinated, not enough people are to squash the threat. How can you stay safe? Knowing how you can get infected is a start. From better ventilation to avoiding these certain states, read on for 7 ways the Delta variant may infect you—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.

1

Being Unvaccinated Can Lead to a More Severe Delta Infection

Man gesturing stop to nurse offering syringe with vaccine.
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The head of none other than the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has called the Delta variant the most serious respiratory disease she's ever seen. And she knows the vaccine is your best defense against it. "Please do not underestimate the risk of serious consequences of this virus," she said at a recent press briefing. "Vaccines are the best tool we have to take charge of this pandemic. We continue to see more and more data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines authorized in the United States. And now we have FDA approval for one vaccine"—the Pfizer vaccine got full FDA approval—"and extraordinary safety and effectiveness data for the others. If you are unvaccinated and ready to revisit your decision to get vaccinated, or if you still have questions, talk to your physician or a trusted source to get the information you need to get vaccinated." Or go to vaccines.gov. Keep reading for the other ways you may get Delta.

2

You May Be Wearing the Wrong Mask

Woman wearing a protective cloth mask.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, advises kids to wear whatever mask they will wear, and basically has the same advice for adults. Other experts are more precise and strident about which is best. They recommend an N95 mask or KN95 mask, which better filters out the virus. "At this point, we need to put everything we can towards controlling" the outbreak and "one of the things of course is masks," says virus expert Michael Osterholm, and he says you really need "N95 masks or the KN95 for kids. Masking is a very important right now. Remember, while vaccination is still the number one, two, and three weapons we have, if even everyone got vaccinated today, the surge would go on as it is right now for the next four to six weeks, because these people would not yet have immunity. So what they can do today though, is mask."

3

You May Not Be Following the CDC Guidelines

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

When asked if kids were at risk going back to school. Dr. Walensky said those most at risk where the schools that were not following the CDC guidelines. "Get vaccinated and wear masks indoors in public spaces to reduce the spread of this variant," says the CDC, which urges vaccines every chance it gets. "The Delta variant causes more infections and spreads faster than earlier forms of the virus that causes COVID-19. It might cause more severe illness than previous strains in unvaccinated people. Vaccines continue to reduce a person's risk of contracting the virus that cause COVID-19, including this variant. Vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, including against this variant."

4

You May Have Poor Ventilation

Sad blond woman watching through a window with a serious expression resting her chin on her hands as she leans on a wooden railing
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"Knowing your risk helps you to take the measures to lower your risk every single day. There are many things that you can do yourself that can keep yourself protected and keep your loved ones protected against this virus, including the Delta variant," says Dr Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization. "This includes making sure you have clean hands and wearing a mask, making sure that mask covers your nose and your mouth and that you have clean hands when you put on your mask and you take off your mask. It involves avoiding crowded spaces, keeping your distance from others, making sure that if you are indoors, you are in a room that has good ventilation. And in many respects that's as simple as opening a window or two windows so that you have good airflow. Taking all of those measures will reduce the possibility of exposure to the virus and reduce the possibility of you getting infected."

5

You Could Get a Breakthrough Infection

Young sick student teenager woman outside at bus stop is sneezing into the elbow by an allergy or cold. Scared woman in protective mask afraid cough woman outdoor
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If you are vaccinated, you can still catch the Delta variant of COVID; the amazing news is, the vaccine has reduced your chances of getting hospitalized or severely ill. There are a few important things to know about breakthrough infections. One is that if you think you have symptoms—be they like a common cold or more traditional COVID symptoms like a fever or loss of sense of smell—get tested. Why? Because the second important thing to know is that if you get a breakthrough infection, you can pass along Delta to someone else—possibly someone who is immunocompromised or unvaccinated, for example a small child, putting them at serious risk. A study done after an outbreak among vaccinated people in Provincetown, Massachusetts, set teeth on edge after scientists discovered "the fact that you have a high level of virus in the nasopharynx of an infected person who has a breakthrough, namely was vaccinated but had a breakthrough infection, and is now capable of transmitting that infection to an uninfected person, that is the thing that is a bit alarming in the sense of triggering the change in the guidelines that the CDC has put forth regarding vaccinated people and the wearing of masks in indoor settings geographically when you're in a high-risk area," said Dr. Fauci. Fortunately, "fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections from this variant appear to be infectious for a shorter period," says the CDC.

6

You Increase Your Chances of Infection Going to These States

West Palm Beach, Florida (US)
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The country is seeing the most infections in areas where vaccination rates are low. That right now includes much of the South and Texas, but there are also outbreaks in Oregon, Florida, Texas, Indiana, New Mexico, and you have to wear a face mask in states like Illinois and Louisiana—be careful before going out. "The Delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response to it," Dr. Walensky said in a briefing. "COVID-19 continues to present many challenges and has exacted a tremendous toll on our nation."

7

You Increase Your Chances of Infection When Hanging in Large Crowds

The crowd of visitors to the festival.
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You will also want to avoid large crowds. Shortly after Dr. Fauci shuddered looking at a mass of people at a Sturgis, North Dakota motorcycle rally, cases in the state jumped more than 450%. "There comes a time when you're dealing with a public health crisis, that could involve you, your family, and everyone else that something supersedes that need to do exactly what you want to do," Fauci told Meet the Press. So think about yourself and others, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Emilia Paluszek
Emilia specializes in human biology and psychology at the University at Albany. Read more
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