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Why is the Delta variant so much more contagious?

The Delta variant is now the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the U.S.

ATLANTA —  

The Delta variant is now the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the U.S., prompting many to wonder why it is so much more contagious than other versions.

Health care experts explained that the coronavirus has been studying and learning about our bodies.

The Delta variant has learned better ways to multiply and spread.

“It’s at least twice as infectious,” said Dr. John Brooks of the CDC. “maybe even a little bit more.”

For months, the coronavirus has been mutating, producing several variants. The Delta variant is the most concerning mutation so far.

To survive, viruses have to multiply. First, they attach to our cells. The spike protein on the coronavirus is like a key that helps it latch onto our cells, then unlocks a door that allows it inside to multiply.

Dr. Brooks said the Delta variant has developed a more effective key.

“That means the amount of virus in your body, or what we call the viral load, can go up fast and much higher,” explained Dr. Brooks. “The more virus in your body, the more you have to share.”

A study of cases in China concluded the Delta variant produced 1,000 times more virus than early strains.

Dr. Brooks said if given the chance, the coronavirus will continue to learn and mutate.

“There’s always the very concerning risk that not only will it learn to replicate faster and move through the population faster, but do even worse things,” said Dr. Brooks. “We have to get people vaccinated to cut this virus off at the knees. We can’t keep giving it a chance to evolve.”

The CDC lists 10 variants of the coronavirus. The Delta variant is one of four that spread faster than the original version.