The World Health Organization (WHO) just released an urgent warning about the coronavirus pandemic.
“What we are seeing in some countries is that there are individuals in their 30s, who are in their 40s and 50s who are in the ICU and who have died,” Maria Van Kerkhobe, Head of WHO’s emerging diseases said.
Not all of the younger victims who contract the virus have underlying health conditions. In Italy, 10 to 15% of the patients in intensive care are under the age of 50. In Korea, one in six deaths happen to people under 60-years-old.
Last month, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that younger adults are also at risk of becoming very sick from the virus. While Americans aged 80 and older have a higher risk of dying from the virus, a significant portion of those hospitalized for the illness were younger, the study found.
Of 508 patients hospitalized between February 12 and March 16, 38% were aged 20 to 54. The report also found that 47% of 121 patients who were taken to intensive care units were under the age of 65. Additionally, 20% of those hospitalized and 12% of those in intensive care were ages 20 to 44, the age range of the millennial generation.
While the findings do flag coronavirus as more of a risk among younger generations than some public opinion holds, the report confirmed that older people are likelier to die from the disease once in the hospital.
Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO emergency program, said that a lot of people have a “dismissive attitude” about the virus. Ryan said people think that only the old or already sick people have to worry about death or being hospitalized.
“We collectively have been living in a world where we’ve tried to convince ourselves that this disease is mild in young people and more severe in older people, and that’s where the problem is,” he said.