What makes the Delta Variant of COVID-19 so different?

After declining for months, COVID-19 cases are spiking again in Austin and around the country, thanks in part to the highly contagious Delta variant

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Parker Hudson explains how this mutation is different from the original virus, and what the public can do to stop the spread.

"The Delta variant is a new strain of the virus that's two to four times more contagious than previous versions because the amount of virus in your body and that you're putting into the air around you is much higher with this strain," says Hudson, who is an assistant professor of Internal Medicine at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Hudson says symptoms of the Delta variant are the same as earlier strains, ranging from mild cold or flu-like symptoms to severe COVID pneumonia. Dr. Hudson says the biggest impact is on unvaccinated people, who are especially vulnerable to infection.

"This variant is so contagious it will find unvaccinated people," he says. "In fact, over 97 percent of our hospitalizations and over 99 percent of our deaths are in unvaccinated individuals. So, death is preventable, thanks to the vaccines." 

Hudson says while vaccination is the best defense fully vaccinated people can still get a milder form of the virus and pass it on to others. Hudson says that's why it's important to continue regular COVID precautions, like masking up in public spaces, avoiding crowds, and getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

"And remember that indoor dining and crowded indoor spaces are still the highest-risk places to get COVID," says Hudson.

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