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BRASILIA, Brazil, Tues. Mar. 30, 2021, REUTERS: Southern Brazil is seeing a sudden rise in COVID-19 deaths among young and middle-aged adults after the identification there of a concerning virus variant known as P.1, researchers said.

They analyzed data from Parana – the largest state in southern Brazil – on 553,518 cases diagnosed from September 2020 through March 17, 2021. In all age groups, the proportion of patients who died either held steady or declined between September and January.

Starting in February, however, fatality rates rose for almost all groups over age 20, according to a report posted on Friday on medRxiv ahead of peer review. From January to February, these rates tripled among patients aged 20 to 29, from 0.04% to 0.13%, and doubled among those aged 30 to 39, 40 to 49, and 50 to 59.

“Individuals between 20 and 29 years of age whose diagnosis was made in February 2021 had an over 3-fold higher risk of death compared to those diagnosed in January 2021,” the researchers said. “Taken together, these preliminary findings suggest significant increases in case fatality rates in young and middle-aged adults after identification of a novel SARS-CoV-2 strain circulating in Brazil, and this should raise public health alarms.”

Latin America’s largest economy is suffering its worst phase of the pandemic, with deaths topping 3,000 a day as a contagious new variant rages through the country. Bolsonaro has gained international notoriety for railing against lockdowns, sowing doubts on vaccines and pushing unproven “miracle” cures.

Brazil trails only the United States in total COVID-19 cases and deaths amid growing discontent over coronavirus deaths and the return of leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the political stage – a threat to President Jair Bolsonaro’s re-election hopes next year.

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