NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New information about the Delta variant is causing some confusion and raising a lot of questions.

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez answered some common questions.

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Our first question is why is the Delta variant so much more contagious than previous strains?

The Delta variant is a mutation that developed several characteristics to make it far more transmissible than the original Wuhan and U.K. Alpha strains.

It appears that Delta is 50% more contagious than Alpha, and Alpha was 50% more contagious than the original Wuhan strain.

That’s partly because Delta is able to get into your cells easier, and so an infected person harbors 1,000 times more virus copies in their respiratory tract than other variants, so you’re going to shed much more virus, making Delta as infectious as chickenpox.

COVID VACCINE

Next question comes from new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The data shows even fully vaccinated people can get breakthrough infections with Delta, so should you still get vaccinated?

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Short answer: yes!

While vaccines are somewhat less effective at preventing infections with Delta compared with earlier strains of the virus, they will still protect strongly against severe disease and death. Present vaccines also protect well against other strains that are still circulating.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

And finally, should you avoid large public gatherings or going away with unvaccinated family on vacations?

Sadly, based on detailed epidemiology from a mass Fourth of July party in Providence, Rhode Island, it seems that the answer is probably yes.

Because people infected with the Delta variant carry and shed much higher viral loads, even brief, fleeting exposure to Delta can be risky, especially since Delta seems to be able to get into our cells more easily.

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The fact remains that masks reduce the transmission of any coronavirus strains and that vaccines reduce the amount of virus circulating in the population, which in turn reduces the potential for still more variants to pop up and prolong this pandemic.

Dr. Max Gomez