Delta variant as contagious as chickenpox: Report

The US CDC report says Delta variant jumps from people to people more swiftly than the viruses that cause Ebola, MERS, SARS, the common cold, the seasonal flu and smallpox.
Jesah Hernandez, a student at Lehman High School, gets the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine from Aylara Geldyeva, in New York. (AP)
Jesah Hernandez, a student at Lehman High School, gets the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine from Aylara Geldyeva, in New York. (AP)
Published on Jul 30, 2021 08:12 PM IST
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By Yashwant Raj I Edited by Amit Chanda

The Delta variant of the coronavirus causes more severe illness than the earlier versions and it is as contagious as chickenpox, several US media outlets have reported citing an internal document prepared by the top American health agency.

The Washington Post, which first reported these findings, said the internal document makes the case for health officials to “acknowledge the war has changed”.

The report prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is based on outside studies and unpublished data from outbreak investigations, shows the Delta variant jumps from people to people more swiftly than the viruses that cause Ebola, MERS, SARS, the common cold, the seasonal flu and smallpox. It is as contagious as chickenpox, according to news reports citing the CDC document.

The document indicates vaccinated people, though protected from severe illness, can transmit the Delta virus as much as the unvaccinated. If infected, vaccinated people were found carrying the same amount of measurable viral load as those unvaccinated and it was this finding, the news reports suggested, that was behind the CDC’s course-reversal on masks.

The health agency changed its two-month-old guidance allowing vaccinated people to do without masks and issued a new recommendation calling for the use of face coverings in certain high-risk conditions earlier this week.

The US is witnessing a surge in new infections, with about 70,000 every day. And the CDC believes vaccinated people are also spreading the virus, although at a far lesser intensity than those unvaccinated. The data shows there are roughly 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans, the New York Times reported on the basis of the CDC document.

The internal document recommends vaccinated people with weak immune systems must wear masks even in low-risk conditions and so should vaccinated people who come in contact with children or older adults, according to the NYT report.

But the current masking guidance is unlikely to be enough and the CDC report said, “Given higher transmissibility and current vaccine coverage, universal masking is essential.”

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021