For months, health officials have said that young adults have been major players in the spread of COVID-19 in the US. However, a new study suggests that another age group is at fault. People aged 35-49 may be the ones fueling new cases of the virus across the country.

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Fueling the COVID-19 Pandemic

A recent study from the U.K's Imperial College London published in the journal Science suggests that people from ages 35 to 49 sustain resurging COVID-19 epidemics in the US.

Researchers analyzed mobility data from mobile phones of more than 10 million  Americans between February to October 2020. The data gathered helped researchers determine where people went, such as groceries, restaurants, and malls. The team then compared the data with COVID-19 cases and mortality rates by age.

The findings noted in the study show that most COVID-19 infections came from people between 20-49; on the other hand, people aged 35-49 were responsible for 41.1% of new cases of the SARS-CoV-2.

According to researchers, those in the late thirties and forties are driving the spread consistently across the country. The team points out that an estimated contribution of people aged 20-34 was significantly higher in the Southern, Southwestern, and Western regions of the US.

The recent study's findings overlap with research published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in September 2020. CDC's study analyzed data from all states and the District of Columbia and saw that 20% of COVID-19 cases between March and August 2020 in the U.S were in 20-29-year-olds--the highest percentage of cases of all the age groups.

The report also states a drop in median age of patients infected with COVID-19 from 46 years old in May 2020 to 38-year-olds in August because of the observed phenomenon.

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What's Going on?

According to Dr. Samir Bhatt, co-author and associate professor at the Imperial College London says to Yahoo Life, the data gathered suggests that school, work, and general activity between middle ages compared to the elderly are the cause for the phenomenon.

He says that these activities can cause an increase in the risk of infection and transmission. 

Middle-aged people also have more contact with younger and older populations. Co-author Oliver Tarmann says, "highly susceptible to COVID-19 infection.

Meanwhile, Bhatt explains that the exact reason is still speculation at this point. The study focuses on mobility and not on factors that drive mobility.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert from Johns Hopkins Center for Health and security, says, "We've seen for a while that younger groups ages 20-49 are driving the spread." However, scientists aren't completely sure about the cause; they have theories that agree with the new study.

Adalja says that the study's data raises the possibility of early vaccinations for middle-aged people in efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

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