Ask an Infectious-Disease Doctor: What Is the Delta Variant, and How Do I Protect Myself?

Everything you need to know about the new strain and how to continue to stay safe.

7/25/2021 11:47:00 PM

An infectious disease doctor breaks down everything you need to know about the new strain and how to continue to stay safe.

Everything you need to know about the new strain and how to continue to stay safe.

.The contrary advice can be confusing, but it is consistent in this way: Public-health measures adapt to the changing state of the pandemic and local circumstances. In the U.S., general case levels have been low, while globally they are not. The Delta variant changes the calculation, so masking rules are being reevaluated. The challenge, however, is that getting pandemic-weary populations to

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can be difficult in practice.What should I do to stay safe?First, if you have not yet been vaccinated, then get vaccinated. Know that you will not befully protecteduntil at least a week or two after the second dose. Vaccination remains the single most safe and effective strategy for protecting yourself and those around you.

If you are unable to get vaccinated, or if you are only partially protected from vaccination due to immunodeficiencies, continue to practice social distancing and masking. Follow theof thumb—when near members of other households, ensure two of the following conditions: ventilation, distancing, or masking.

Second, follow yourlocal conditions. If cases are surging in your region, pay attention to the recommendations of local authorities. If there are concerning case rises, especially in regions where vaccination is low, continue masking indoors even if you are vaccinated. The reason for this is that if the Delta variant is surging in your area, the vaccine will protect you from serious illness, but you may still be passing it on to others. There is good evidence that the

vaccines reduce transmission, but the Delta variant may decrease that protection. Even if you’re vaccinated, mask indoors—especially if you have unvaccinated household members (like children) or visit places like grocery stores, where people with lower immunity still frequent.

We have come a long way during this global health crisis, and people are understandably looking for relief and connection after such a long, difficult slog. Vaccination has been a stunning triumph and continues to deliver protection. The pandemic, however, is in full force throughout the globe as we try to scale up vaccination access and uptake before the mutating virus takes a larger toll.

Dharushana Muthulingam, M.D., M.S., is an infectious-disease physician and public-health researcher in St. Louis.Vogue DailyAll the essentials: top fashion stories, editor’s picks, and celebrity style. Read more: Vogue Magazine »

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