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The COVID-19 Delta variant is the most prominent strain within the U.S. Here’s what you should know.

The COVID-19 Delta variant is on everyone’s minds. While several countries have taken great strides in inoculating their population, this variant has been making appearances in a variety of places, including the U.S.

Here’s what you should know about this strain of COVID-19:

Why are people concerned?

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Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Delta variant can spread more easily than the original coronavirus. It has mutations on the spike protein that make it easier to be transmitted from person to person, infecting human cells more rapidly.

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According to the Washington Post, the Delta variant is 50% more contagious than the original coronavirus, with every person infected spreading it to three or four people. As of June, the Delta variant is the most prominent strain within the U.S.

What about symptoms?

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While the degree of contagion is concerning, when it comes to symptoms, the Delta variant is very similar to the original form of the virus. There are persistent coughs, headaches, fever, and sore throat.

Data from the U.K., which has been tracking the development of the Delta variant since before the U.S., shows that there was less prevalence of cough and loss of smell. The most reported symptoms included a runny nose, headache, fever, and sore throat.

Is it more deadly?

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The delta variant is significantly more dangerous for people who are not vaccinated. Communities with low vaccination rates have seen significant jumps in cases over the last couple of weeks in areas like the Midwest and the south. For people who are vaccinated, infections are rare. Two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine were 88% effective against disease and 96% percent effective against hospitalization.

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When it comes to how deadly it is, data from the U.K. shows that this variant is more likely to result in hospitalizations and death, especially among those who are unvaccinated.

Should we mask up again?

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There are different opinions on the matter. While the CDC advised for only unvaccinated people to remain masked up, the WHO is suggesting for everyone to wear masks. On behalf of the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to CBS News. “If there are any changes that would instigate making a change in recommendation, that will happen,” he said. “But for now, the CDC recommendation stands that if in fact you are fully vaccinated, you are protected and you do not need to wear a mask outdoors or indoors.”

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