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                                Episode #45 - Delta variant

                                5 July 2021 | Science conversation

                                Summary

                                 

                                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.

                                 

                                 

                                Podcast

                                Transcript

                                Vismita Gupta-Smith

                                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 Delta variant.

                                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.

                                Vismita Gupta-Smith

                                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.

                                Vismita Gupta-Smith

                                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-Smith

                                Thank you, Maria. That was Science in 5 today. Until next time then. Stay safe, stay healthy and stick with