HomeLifestyleHealth & FitnessExperts explain risk of COVID-19 Delta Variant 'Breakthrough Infection'

Experts explain risk of COVID-19 Delta Variant ‘Breakthrough Infection’

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Experts say that even if people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, they may need to take extra precautions to avoid breakthrough infections with the highly transmissible Delta variant.

According to researchers, the Delta variant is responsible for the majority of new COVID cases in the United States, and older people and those with immune-compromising conditions may be at higher risk than others.

They stressed that “breakthrough infections” among fully vaccinated people can occur, but that they are rarely severe.

“The end game is most people who get breakthrough infections either have very mild symptoms or no symptoms. They rarely end up in the hospital, and they don’t die,” Dr Robert Murphy, executive director of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Institute for Global Health, said.

“The big question is how infectious are they? That’s what we are trying to find out,” he said in a Northwestern news release.

Murphy and other American scientists are evaluating the infectiousness of COVID-19-infected students who had been vaccinated. In one to two months, they expect to have results.

According to him, the two-dose vaccine is still about 90% effective against the Delta variant. Of course, this means that one out of every ten people who receives the vaccine and is exposed to the coronavirus could develop a breakthrough infection.

“Anybody is at risk for it, not just the immune-compromised. It’s athletes. It’s totally healthy people. Certainly, the immune-compromised are at a higher risk because they can’t mount a strong enough immunologic response to the vaccine. Older people may also have a weaker response to the vaccine,” Murphy said.

The researchers are baffled as to why the number of new and breakthrough Delta infections is on the rise.

“We are seeing breakthrough infections and while we know that no vaccine is 100% effective, it feels frightening,” said Mercedes Carnethon, vice-chair of preventive medicine at Feinberg.

“One concern is the Delta variant is evading the vaccines. Another concern is any virus that causes a high viral load would breakthrough vaccine protection,” Carnethon said in the release.

“There is evidence that the Delta variant does cause higher viral loads earlier in the course of infection.”

She added, “The virus will continue to mutate itself into new variants so long as it circulates in the population, and the biggest space it has to circulate is among the unvaccinated.”

However, as the vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective, some people who have received the vaccine are wondering if they should change their habits to avoid contracting COVID.

One common question is whether or not you should wear a mask after getting vaccinated.

That depends, according to Carnethon, who adheres to local mask-wearing guidelines and has not yet returned to wearing masks indoors in public spaces.

However, if you live in an area with low vaccination rates and high transmission, she advises wearing a mask.

Moreover, “At this time, I would not choose to travel to a hot spot. But if I had to go, I would wear my mask and try to avoid large groups of people,” Carnethon said.

“I would not take unvaccinated family members to a current hot spot or family members who are vaccinated but who remain vulnerable due to age or other conditions,” she continued.

Carnethon went on to say that anyone who is vulnerable due to age or preexisting conditions should take precautions, “because if they are infected or reinfected, it may not be a mild illness.”

Image Credit: Getty

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