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COVID-19 variants from UK, Brazil, South Africa infecting young people and making them sick in great numbers

Scientists thought they knew about how coronavirus spreads and its most likely victims are changing rapidly – and this X-ray shows how bad it is.

A feature of coronavirus that emerged early in the pandemic was its tendency to inflict severe illness and death on predominantly elderly people or those with pre-existing health conditions.

Young and otherwise healthy people were mainly left unscathed, with many experiencing such minor symptoms – or none altogether – that they didn’t even realize they were infected.

But the emergence of new mutations of COVID-19, dubbed ‘variants of concern’ by epidemiologists, has changed all of that. As countless international examples have shown, dodging sickness and even death are no longer safe bets for young people.

‘Hitting harder and faster than before.’

Canada is currently in the midst of a devastating third wave of infections, sparked overwhelmingly by the spread of the highly infectious B117 variant, known as the UK strain.

Public health officials say it has now likely replaced the original COVID-19 virus in large parts of the country, and its dominance has seen a shift in who is likely to fall ill.

They say the new onslaught is hitting young Canadians particularly hard, with doctors shocked by how many are winding up in hospitals – and intensive care units.

Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency doctor in the Canadian city of Toronto, told CTV that the people “filling the ICU” at his hospital “are all in their 30s, 40s, and 50s”.

“It’s infecting younger people harder and faster than before,” Dr. Pirzada said. “The variants have changed things completely.” He shared a side-by-side comparison of two lung X-rays to demonstrate the impact COVID-19 is having on young people. On the left is a healthy set of lungs, while on the right are those of an ICU patient in their 30s, showing large pockets of fluid build-up.

Overnight, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pleaded with Canadians, especially young people, to heed the warnings and take infection control measures seriously. “This isn’t the news any of us wanted, but hospitalizations are surging, ICU beds are filling up, variants are spreading, and even people who had convinced themselves they didn’t need to be concerned are getting sick,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters.

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