BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The University of Alabama Birmingham held another weekly Q&A to answer questions surrounding the coronavirus.

Derek Moates, a researcher and lab manager for UAB’s Department of Pathology’s Fungal Reference Lab, discussed the latest surrounding the coronavirus Delta variant.

“The Delta strain has high viral load, meaning the variant produces a high level of the virus in an infected individual, meaning the strain is extremely contagious and spreading rapidly.”

Moates also explained that the high viral load means that the virus can spread between people in less than one minute and can learn how to get around the vaccine easily.

“The more opportunity that the virus gets to get into an individual that’s vaccinated it learns how to get through the vaccine and immune system, which is not what we want.”

Moates said naturally occurring mutations are a concern — and the fewer people who are vaccinated, the more likely mutations to the virus could occur. This could potentially lead to a new, even more infectious variant more resistant to the vaccine.

“We know for a fact delta is here, but what we don’t know is what’s next,” Moates said.

“Delta is unique and strong. It knows how to make lots of copies of itself. RNA viruses can make many different errors as they try to replicate. During the viral lifecycle, a gradual accumulation of mutations under positive selection, such as vaccinations, leads to the emergence of new viral variants with improved fitness. The more virus that is made, the more opportunities there are for advantageous mutations to occur, which can lead to a much more problematic variant. When we see a variant that is able to produce large quantities of virus, it is very concerning.”

Moates also said that individuals who have gotten vaccinated do not need to wear a mask despite the concerns but that immune-compromised populations may want to wear masks since they could have problems fighting off viruses in general. Those who have not received the vaccine are more susceptible to the variant: “The only way to stop it from progressing is to get vaccinated, if you’ve been on the fence about vaccinations this is the time to get it.”

The full Q&A can be viewed in the video player above.