Coronavirus

4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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More young people are getting hospitalized as a 'stickier,' more infectious coronavirus strain becomes dominant

Posted at 6:00 PM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 18:00:00-04

(WSYM) — A more ‘stickier’ variant strain is hitting younger people much harder and leading to higher hospitalization rates. The B.1.1.7 variant first detected in Britain has spread its way across all 50 states. And has become the most dominant strain here in the US.

I think stickier is a great way to describe this variant. Basically, it means that the virus has mutated in a way that helps it grab onto human cells and stick to them much easier than the original strain. And that’s because of the small changes in the spike proteins on the surface of the virus.

Now research has indicated that the UK variant is about 60% more contagious and 67% more deadly than the original strain. So what this means in real life, is that it could take less time for you to pick up the virus if you’re visiting with someone who’s infected. You could also end up with a higher viral load.

Viral load refers to the number of viral particles. One viral particle is not likely going to make you sick, but a lot of them can. And it’s possible that you won’t need as many viral particles with the B.1.1.7 variant in order to get infected.

Question: Is that why more younger people getting hospitalized now compared to the older generation?

I believe that’s part of the answer. Younger people – meaning those aged 50 and under – are also less likely to be vaccinated compared to older folks.

Over 78% of folks aged 65 and up have gotten at least one shot of a vaccine, with 60% fully vaccinated. Also, younger folks have heard over and over again that the virus will not be as hard on them. That they are less likely to die. So young folks are taking more risks, going out more to places like restaurants and bars and they’re socializing more. But this messaging needs to change.

The virus has changed. And emergency room visits are up. And it’s the younger folks that are getting hospitalized with COVID-19 complications.

Young people, even those in their twenties, are coming in very sick. Some need to be placed on an ECMO – which stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. It’s a heart-lung machine that uses a pump and artificial lung to provide cardiac and respiratory support.

Others need oxygen support. Young people can also face long-term complications and become long-haulers. They can struggle with fatigue, brain fog, loss of taste and smell. There are an array of debilitating symptoms and no one knows exactly how their body will react and heal following a virus infection.

So we really need to stay vigilant. Yes, we’re all tired of this pandemic. But I can tell you knows not tired, and that’s the virus. So please, continue with pandemic precautions and get vaccinated when you can.