5 July 2021 | Science conversation
What do we know about the Delta variant so far? How can we assess our risk? What strategies should we apply to protect ourselves whether we are in a low vaccination or high vaccination setting? WHO’s Dr Maria Van Kerkhove explains in Science in 5.
Hello and welcome to
Science in 5. I'm Vismita Gupta-Smith and we're talking about the Delta variant
today. Our expert today is Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove. Maria, welcome. My first
question to you is explain to us, please, what we know now in July 2021 about the
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove
So, the Delta variant is a variant of concern that WHO is tracking and monitoring around the world. It's a variant of concern because we know it has increased transmissibility. This has been demonstrated by several countries. And we know that where the Delta variant is identified, it really rapidly takes off and spreads between people more efficiently than even the Alpha variant that was first detected around December, January 2021. As of today, the Delta variant has been reported in 96 countries and we expect that the Delta variant will continue to spread. There are a number of factors that are contributing to increased transmission around the world. The first are these variants of concern, including the Delta variant. The second factor is that we have increased social mixing and increased social mobility, which increases the number of contacts that individuals have. The third factor is the relaxation or the inappropriate use of public health and social measures. Proven public health and social measures that we know prevent infections, reduce the spread of somebody who is infected with the virus to others and save lives. And the fourth factor is the uneven and inequitable distribution of vaccines.
The world remains
largely susceptible to infection, including any variants of concern, including
the Delta variant.
So Maria, different
countries of the world are in different stages of this pandemic. How can we
assess our risk wherever we live to protect ourselves from the Delta variant?
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove
So, this is a very
important question. 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. 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. In
addition, when it's your turn, get vaccinated. We know that the vaccines are
incredibly effective of preventing severe disease and death. And so, when it is
your turn make sure that you take that opportunity and you get vaccinated and
you get the full doses. If you are required to get two doses, make sure you go
back for that second dose so that you could be fully protected against severe
disease and death.
Maria, do our risks
change? And also, should we change our tactics and protective measures
depending on what situations we find ourselves in? For instance, we could be in
a country or a city which has high vaccination, or we could be in a setting
where there is low vaccination.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove
Too many people around
the world are not yet vaccinated or have not yet received the full vaccination
course. And so, people remain susceptible to infection and they may remain
susceptible to severe disease and death. This is why we continue to recommend
to take a comprehensive approach using all of the tools that we have at our
disposal to prevent ourselves from getting infected in the first place. And if
we are infected, to pass the virus to others. At the present time, we recommend
to continue to adhere, to reinforce adherence to all of the measures that we
have, all of the tools that we have at our disposal. Follow the local guidance
that's issued in your area and make sure that you take control over what you do
every day and reduce your opportunities for getting infected. So remember, this
is a dynamic situation and we're learning more every day about these variants
of concern. So for the time being, do everything that you can to keep yourself
safe and keep up with the latest information.
Vismita Gupta-SmithThank you, Maria. That was Science in 5 today. Until next time then. Stay safe, stay healthy and stick with