COVID-19 resurgence fueled by young adults: Studies and data from several countries suggest young people play a key role in the virus’s spread / They also make up a growing portion of new cases
Romania reported 1,284 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, a record number since the start of the pandemic. While most of Europe is slowly going through a second wave, the latest statistics show that the situation is yet quite different from that of February as the average age of people getting infected is shifting lower.
This trend has been observed across Europe for a number of weeks now, particularly in Romania, France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. If the increase of testing capacities partly explains the shift – young adults were not given priority on Covid-19 tests – authorities and scientists say it is also linked to more reckless behaviors.
Young people may not feel really concerned by the pandemic as they are unlikely to get a severe Covid-19 form. Yet, although they mostly have mild symptoms, by contaminating each other they create moving reservoirs and endanger the older ones, when they don’t endanger themselves.
In Romania, this new age distribution of Covid-19 cases has already been reported since early July by the Minister of Health – Nelu Tătaru – who stressed the virus’s lethality even to young adults without any known comorbidities. On July 10, the Head of the Marius Nasta Institute of Pneumology told Digi24 that more young people were now ending up in emergency departments in Bucharest, some of them showing severe pulmonary lesions.
Yesterday in France, the health authority “Agence Régionale de Santé” (ARS) of Nouvelle-Aquitaine issued its own warning about a sudden rise in cases among young people. Between July 13 and July 18, the number of newly infected among individuals between 15-44 has quadrupled. To the north, Britany recently announced that the total number of people diagnosed with Covid-19 has multiplied by 10, most of the new cases to be found among the 18-25.
According to the ARS, the main reason of the virus resurgence is linked to parties and family gatherings in which people do not keep any distance neither wear a mask. Even more worrying, the agency linked some new clusters to young adults who deliberately attended private events while they had tested positive.
In Portugal, one of the Europe’s success stories in the fight against the Covid-19, an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 infections has also been reported giving Portugal one of the continent’s highest rate per 100,000 inhabitants. According to the government, a substantial portion of the new cases may be due to recent parties which attracted more than 1,000 people.
In the Netherlands, the same problem arises in the virus’s spread driven by younger people. Marc Bonten, an epidemiologist at UMC Utrecht told the Telegraaf that this part of the population seemed “to be the cause of the increase”.
In Spain, new coronavirus cases have been multiplied by 4, affecting especially younger people also. A few weeks ago for instance, 91 young individuals tested positive after having partied ABC de Sevilla said, increasing the work of authorities regarding contact tracing.
The story is no different on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Canada is also facing a second wave of Covid-19 infections. Last Tuesday, the Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo told the press that the majority of the newly infected seemingly contracted it by attending indoor parties and going to pubs.
Then, in Florida, USA, where the first wave is still going on, the average age of the newly infected has dropped from 65 in May to 33 today. In Texas, one hospitalized patient out of two is under 50. In California, 44% of the new cases are among individuals under 34 according to an analysis based on the Department of Public Health data. In Colombia, in South America, the 20-39 represents 45% of the total of infected and account for 3300 deaths.
Although the majority of young adults have mild symptoms, they are fueling the virus’s spread within the society.
This phenomenon is called “silent transmission” and it is quite serious.
Most of young people are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms similar to those of a flu. Therefore, they don’t think they can endanger others. However, late June, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington, Judit Malmgren told NPR that they “create a reservoir of disease moving around in the population” emphasizing the fact that more young people infected means a higher risk for the older ones.
A recent study linked about half of the clusters in Japan to people ages 20–39 while the average age of Covid-19 cases was about 50-60 in the same period. Beyond this, the increase of cases is also pressuring the need of testing from authorities.
Furthermore, two studies from Hong Kong and the United Kingdom published in May demonstrated that around 50% of the people who tested positive for Covid-19 were infected by presymptomatic (46%) and asymptomatic individuals (10%). Similar conclusions have been reached in another study from July 6.
These results suggest that anyone, of any age, can help fueling the virus’s spread, no matter the medical condition. Since the young people are now taking a greater place in the total number of cases, they are more than ever a part of the problem, but also of the way out as Canadian authorities said.
Note: Antoine Dewaest is working as an intern for G4Media, enhancing the understanding of the Romanian society. He is studying at Sciences Po Rennes, France.
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