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COVID-19: More Young People Getting Hospitalized From 'Stickier,' Highly Contagious Strain

A new "stickier" COVID-19 strain has been at the root of younger people getting sick.
A new "stickier" COVID-19 strain has been at the root of younger people getting sick. Photo Credit: CDC

The new “stickier” COVID-19 variant that derived in the United Kingdom could be at the root of the recent rash of younger Americans getting infected with the virus.

Unlike the original COVID-19 strain that came to the East Coast from Wuhan, the new, more transmittable B.1.1.7 variant has proven to be a formidable foe for younger Americans, who have seen the number of infections rapidly rising in recent weeks.

“(COVID-19) cases and emergency room visits are up,” Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week. “We are seeing these increases in younger adults, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated.”

According to researchers, the UK variant has mutated to allow itself to bind more to cells, making it “stickier,” CNN medical analyst Jonathan Reiner said.

“There is a little difference in the way the (B.1.1.7) spike protein holds that makes it stick to your cells a little more easily,” officials noted.

The “sticker” variant means that even a short encounter with someone who contracts the virus and could lead to one, even young people, getting infected. It could also lead to a larger viral load.

“Is one viral particle enough to make you sick? No, probably not. On the other hand ... sometimes a massive inoculum can kill an otherwise healthy person. And we've seen that in health care workers," Reiner said.

“So these new variants, particularly the UK variant, seem to be stickier. So the notion is that it's more contagious, so to speak, because potentially you don't need as much inoculum to get sick.”

Officials noted that the rise in new infections in younger Americans as compared to older residents comes as many have refused to take or had limited access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Recent data released by the CDC found that nearly 80 percent of people over the age of 65 have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine, with approximately 60 percent completing the vaccination process.

Comparatively, just 47.6 percent of the population over the age of 1 has been vaccinated, with less than 30 percent fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

“The unvaccinated, those are the people who are getting infected,” officials noted. We’re seeing a large number of young people, and they're the ones we're seeing in hospitals now.”

“We're certainly seeing it more in 20s and 30s as well," Megan Ranney, the director of the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health told CNN. "And people in their 20s and 30s are less likely to be vaccinated and more likely to be out and about."

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