You may have heard about the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus—but what is a variant, and what are the most important things to know for your health? Read on to learn more about the Delta variant and how to protect yourself and your family.

What is a variant?

A virus spreads by making many copies of itself once it’s entered an infected host (that’s you!).

In most cases, a virus makes an identical copy of itself. But sometimes, the copies are different from the original. These small changes are known as variations and are what creates a variant. Variations happen with all viruses, including the cold and flu viruses.


Variants increase as a virus spreads

The more a virus spreads, the more variants emerge. This is because with every infected person, the virus has more chances to copy itself and create new variants.

Sometimes, virus variants are weaker than the original virus. They get attacked by the body faster and die off or stop spreading.

Other times, variants are stronger than the original virus. The body can’t fight the variant as well. Variants can also cause changes to a virus that help it spread more easily or reinfect people who’ve already had the virus.

The Delta variant

The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is an example of this more infectious type of virus variant.

  • It spreads more easily than the original version of the COVID-19 virus.
  • FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines help protect against the Delta variantLess than 0.2% of vaccinated people may contract and spread the COVID-19 virus, known as a “breakthrough infection.” That means 2 out of every 1,000 vaccinated people.
  • It is extremely rare for people who are vaccinated to develop severe illness because of a breakthrough infection.

Protecting yourself against the Delta variant

As the Delta variant continues to spread, we’ll continue to learn about how it affects both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Getting a vaccine is the single most important and effective prevention treatment for COVID-19.

Both vaccinations and human behavior are important for protecting yourself against virus variants as they continue to emerge.

  • Getting vaccinated will reduce your risk of getting sick and also help protect those you love.
  • The vaccine also helps prevent outbreaks that disrupt daily life—especially important for keeping our children safe and in school learning and socializing after a very disruptive year.
  • Vaccination, social distancing, wearing a mask and avoiding crowded indoor gatherings are all important to help protect you and your family from infection.

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Updated: August 26, 2021

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