I'm an Infectious Disease Expert and Here's How to Not Catch Delta

by Professor Andrew Dobson, as told to Matt Gillick

We have all heard about the Delta variant. We know how contagious it is. The United States is top five in the world for new cases, mainly caused by the proliferation of this variant. Because of this strain and our country's response, hospitals in regions most afflicted are reporting no more beds available in their ICUs. All these facts can weigh on people, leaving them unsure of what to do. How do we do our part in stopping the spread? What can we do as individuals to avoid getting infected? Andrew Dobson is an infectious disease expert and a professor of evolutionary biology at Princeton University. With his background in studying pathogens and the ecology of infectious diseases, he provided five actions everyone can take to avoid getting infected by the Delta variant. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Get Vaccinated

Happy vaccinated woman gesturing thumbs up.
Happy vaccinated woman gesturing thumbs up.

This is a no-brainer. I cannot stress this enough. The only alternative to not getting the vaccine is falling seriously ill or dying from COVID because this variant is not the end of this pandemic nor the end of this virus. The overwhelming majority of people vaccinated do not fall seriously ill from Delta, and 99.9% do not experience adverse reactions to the vaccines themselves. While the most well-known vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson&Johnson) have shown to be less effective in reducing infections from the Delta strain, the bottom line is they reduce the risk of dying.

If you still refuse to get this life-saving medicine, then you better call your insurance company. Make sure you have a good plan because getting admitted to the hospital for COVID could cost up to $20,000. Although we do not know exactly how long these vaccines last yet, the science so far has been incredible. The speed at which researchers and scientists developed a safe and effective vaccine has been phenomenal by anyone's standards. We are only going to get more effective vaccines moving forward. We will probably need to get annual boosters in the future.

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Continue Wearing a Mask

Woman put on medical protective mask for protection against coronavirus.
Woman put on medical protective mask for protection against coronavirus.

Another no-brainer. COVID-19 is an aerosol-transmitted virus. If an infected person breathes in proximity to a non-infected person without any facial covering, they are more likely to test positive. Wearing a mask (preferably an N95 mask) greatly reduces the risk of infection. It's a simple measure that protects you and others from getting sick. Of course, while the transmission rate can vary from person to person, it should be a general rule of thumb to wear a mask whenever you step outside your home, especially if you go indoors. Not only is it the sensible thing to do because it is a health measure advised by the CDC, wearing a mask is the civil thing to do. Continuing to wear facial coverings is a good habit to develop in the context of this virus. Delta is not going to be the last of these variants. In fact, they are only going to get more virulent and more transmittable.

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Keep Your Distance

Two friends with protective masks greet with waving to each other.Alternative greeting during quarantine to avoid physical contact
Two friends with protective masks greet with waving to each other.Alternative greeting during quarantine to avoid physical contact

Avoid contact with other humans as much as possible. 50 to 60% of new cases are reported as asymptomatic, and those people are most responsible for the increase in transmission. While you might be asymptomatic, think about those who are immunocompromised or not fully vaccinated. They can get gravely sick from someone who might not even know they are infected. Transmission can come from being in close quarters with other people. Do not go inside restaurants or nightclubs. Remain outside and maintain social distancing to the best of your ability. As hard as these sacrifices may seem, we must make these lifestyle changes to ensure as many people as possible stay healthy. If you do end up gathering with others, confirm everyone in your group is fully vaccinated.

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Minimize Travel

male taxi driver wearing face protective medical mask driving car with passenger
male taxi driver wearing face protective medical mask driving car with passenger

During the upcoming holiday season, we can be tempted to visit family and friends after several months of lockdowns and travel restrictions. Given this surge and the threat of other variants, cut back on travel as much as your life allows. There is an increased risk of infection while traveling. You can catch COVID-19 not only while on an airplane, but on the Uber ride to the airport, the shuttle taking you to the gate, and so on. It leaves too many opportunities for the virus to infect you, making it likely you bring it home. We will not improve the current situation by traveling frivolously. Now, if travel is necessary, follow the CDC's guidelines.

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Listen to the Scientists

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci

Misinformation is getting people killed. Much of it comes from people who are in no way qualified to be advising anyone about medicine. Learn to trust reputable scientists and medical doctors. Get your information from verifiable sources. If you look at the research conducted by the CDC, their work reporting on this novel virus has been brilliant. But while the scientists have been outstanding, politicians and personalities across several outlets have been abysmal. In many ways, they have made the situation worse. Being healthy, learning about this virus, and how to avoid infection are not political issues. Scientists and medical experts are providing the most accurate information and have more qualifications than someone with a platform on the internet.

Remember, this will not be the last pandemic in our lifetime. Coronavirus was particularly nasty for the old and immunocompromised. The next one could be the other way around, afflicting young people. If you want the world to be even more miserable, continue following these disingenuous people. Otherwise, learn from and support those who invest in stopping this kind of disaster from happening again.

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Signs of Possible Infection

Woman in the casual wear raise her hand over her heart.
Woman in the casual wear raise her hand over her heart.

The CDC's research states: COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Infected people have had a wide range of symptoms reported – from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headache

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Sore throat

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

  • New confusion

  • Inability to wake or stay awake

  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.