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A wave of cases of the Kent coronavirus mutation in the US could flag the beginning of a "whole new pandemic", an expert says.
Prof Michael Osterholm has warned young people may be the target of the infectious new strain, as those under 50 are increasingly needing ICU treatment.
The director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota was speaking about mutant strains including the spread of the Kent variant of Covid in the US, the Mirror reports.
It was previously warned the new, more infectious variant of coronavirus first found in Kent would become the world's dominant strain, said the director of the UK's genetic surveillance programme.
The variant, which led to the UK declaring a third lockdown in early January has been detected in cases around the world, including in the US.
Speaking to NBC News Prof Osterholm said: "This B117 variant…this is almost like having a whole new pandemic descend upon us.
"The only good news is that our vaccines do work against it."
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He added that the surge, unlike with other strains of the virus, was being seen more in children as well as in younger adults.
He said: "We are now seeing increasing number of severe illnesses (and) ICU hospitalisations in individuals 30 to 50 years of age who have not been vaccinated."
The new variant initially led to London and parts of southern and eastern England being rushed into Tier 4 restrictions prior to Christmas, before stricter measures were introduced throughout the UK.
Analysis of the variant, known as B117, suggests it is up to 70% more transmissible than the previous strain that was dominant in the UK.
The variant has been detected across Britain and in more than 50 countries, and "it's going to sweep the world, in all probability", Professor Sharon Peacock from the Covid-19 Genomics UK (Cog-UK) Consortium told the BBC's Newscast podcast.
Prof Peacock, professor of public health and microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said transmissibility was likely to cause scientists difficulties for years to come.
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