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More young people are being hospitalized with COVID-19

CDC reports B.1.1.7 variant is the new dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — COVID fatigue may be settling in, but experts say we aren't at the end of the road. In fact, data shows more young people are getting hospitalized as the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant continues to make its rounds from state to state.

First detected in the UK, the CDC reports this variant is now the most dominant strain in the US and is hitting younger people hard.

But, why?

Dr. John Sellick is an epidemiologist at Kaleida Health and a professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo and says with a majority of older people now vaccinated (or at minimum one dose in), the average age has shifted some.

"One of our concerns with younger people is that they're going to say, 'well you know I'm not going to get that sick if I get COVID so why do I need to get the vaccine?'" 

To which Dr. Sellick answers, "some young people do die, but more importantly they can pass it on to someone who is more vulnerable to diseases."

As of Sunday, NYS data trackers report that when it comes to hospitalizations, Western New York is climbing in numbers - again. 

But when it comes to mutations, like this one, how can you prepare?

Dr. Sellick says, with these type of infectious diseases, there's no one answer.

"With this particular one and some of the others, like the B.1.351 that was originally identified in South Africa, these actually have the ability to spread more easily," he says.

Fifty percent or more so than the original strain, by his estimation. 

"This is going to increase the number of people who are going to get infected just by the nature of the fact that it's so much more easily transmitted," Dr. Sellick says.

Other things to consider, especially when you start to see a new trend, are behavior patterns. And with businesses starting to re-open, this could be problematic.

"You know people congregating together, going away on vacations and breaks and sports activities, especially with the weather getting nice, we're seeing more of this in younger age groups," Dr. Sellick says. 

Whereas earlier on in the pandemic, we saw an older age average of 65+, the average is dropping, which means herd immunity is going to require more individuals 50 and younger to get vaccinated.

"People who have mild cases of COVID or people who have asymptomatic COVID do not develop as strong a immune response as people who get vaccinated," Dr. Sellick says. "The big companies are all working on updated vaccines trying to proactively pick out which variants are going to be a problem in terms of immune."

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