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Coronavirus: What’s the risk to young people?

by ace
Coronavirus: What's the risk to young people?

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So far, the health message has been clear – the older you are, the greater your risk of suffering from coronavirus. But the World Health Organization (WHO) warned young people not to consider themselves "invincible".

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, an occupational physician and A&E physician, told the BBC that the disease "is not limited only to the elderly and people with underlying health conditions".

She was speaking the day after the news that an 18-year-old with an underlying health condition died of the virus in England. He is thought to be the youngest person with the virus who has died in the UK so far.

Allin-Khan said he had treated patients "in good shape" before the age of 30 and 40 who were now in intensive care and "fighting for their lives".

So, what are the risks at different ages?

It remains the case that, in general, older people are more at risk.

Researchers at Imperial College London have discovered a clear link between age and probability of being hospitalized with coronavirus. And older people were also much more likely, once they were hospitalized, to need critical care.

Less than 5% of children under 50 needed to be hospitalized for their symptoms, but that number rose to 24% for people aged 70 to 79.

Likewise, only 5% of those under 40 who ended up in the hospital required intensive care, compared with 27% of people in their 60s and 43% of people in their 70s.

That increased to 71% for people over 80, according to case-based estimates in China and Italy – two of the most affected countries.

The average age of people who are admitted to intensive care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was 63, suggested an audit by a research institution.

Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said initial data suggests 53% of hospitalized people were over 55 – which means that about half were younger.

However, when it comes to hospitalizations in intensive care units and deaths, a much higher proportion occurred in the older age categories (about 80% of deaths occurred among those over 65).

Individuals are not the average

These are average, so there will be younger people who, unfortunately, suffer more severe bouts of the disease, and some of these cases have been fatal.

In Italy, 0.4% of cases in the 40s resulted in death, compared with 19.7% of cases in the 80s, while in the USA an estimated 0.7% of cases among people in their 40s it was fatal.

The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, said the total number of deaths "was predominantly weighted in relation to the elderly and people with underlying diseases", but added that the virus "is not a mathematical formula" .

"There will be young people who will end up getting seriously ill."

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The WHO says that "although the evidence we have suggests that those over 60 are most at risk, young people, including children, have died."

AN Chinese study of over 2,000 children who had contracted the virus found that "although the clinical manifestations of the cases of Covid-19 children were generally less severe than those of adult patients, young children, especially children, were vulnerable to infection".

Pre-existing conditions

The underlying health conditions also play a role, regardless of age.

For example, there are about 4.3 million adults in the UK who have asthma, which increases your risk of serious illness if you contract coronavirus – and it affects people of all ages.

What do I need to know about the coronavirus?

In 2013, the last time the Office for National Statistics conducted a general lifestyle survey, 21% of people aged 25 to 44 reported having some form of long-standing illness.

Some may have underlying conditions of which they are unaware.

Stop the spread

And while younger people are less likely to become seriously ill, they can easily spread the virus to others.

They may have no symptoms or be very mild and may not realize that they are infectious.

And the coronavirus appears to be considerably more infectious than the flu – each person with the virus, on average, transmits it to two to three other people, experts estimate.

These two or three people can move on to two or three more people each, and so on. This means that a seemingly small number of people quickly turns into hundreds and thousands.

Social detachment breaks the chain of transmission.

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