Coronavirus pandemic: Millennials not invincible as 20% of those hospitalized in the US were aged 20-44

Coronavirus pandemic: Millennials not invincible as 20% of those hospitalized in the US were aged 20-44
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Americans across all age groups including millennials are falling seriously sick after being infected by the new coronavirus, and not just the elderly. An estimated 20% of US adults in the 20-44 age group had to be hospitalized, shows data from cases reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC experts analyzed data from February 12 to March 16. As of March 16, a total of 4,226 COVID-19 cases had been reported in the US with reports increasing to 500 or more cases per day, beginning March 14.

Among 2,449 patients, whose ages were known during the analysis, 6% were aged 85 years or above, 25% were aged 65-84 years, 18% each were aged 55-64 years and 45-54 years, and 29% were aged 20-44 years. Only 5% of cases occurred in people aged 0-19 years.

The analysis also shows that among 508 (12%) patients known to have been hospitalized, 9% were aged 85 years or more, 36% were aged 65-84 years, 20% were aged 20-44 years, 18% were 45-54 years, and 17% were aged 55-64 years. "Less than 1% of hospitalizations were among persons 19 years or less," says the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).


So far, over 14,200 cases have been reported from across 50 states in the US and at least 205 have died.

Risk increases with age

Early data from China suggest that a majority of COVID-19 deaths have occurred among adults aged 60 years and above and among people with serious underlying health conditions. The US CDC numbers are similar to the Chinese experience and show that the elderly have been the most affected. The percentage of Americans hospitalized increased with age, from 2–3% among people aged 9 years or less, to 31% among adults aged 85 years or above. The report, however, provides no data on whether any of the patients suffered from serious underlying health conditions or not.


Workers exit a large tent set up in front of the emergency room at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington (AP Photo/Ted S Warren)

Overall, 31% of cases, 45% of hospitalizations, 53% of ICU admissions and 80% of deaths associated with COVID-19 were among adults aged 65 years and above, with the highest percentage of severe outcomes among people 85 years and above. In contrast, no ICU admissions or deaths were reported among people aged 19 years or below. 
"Among 121 patients known to have been admitted to an ICU, 7% of cases were reported among adults 85 years (and above), 46% among adults aged 65-84 years, 36% among adults aged 45-64 years, and 12% among adults aged 20–44 years. Percentages of ICU admissions were lowest among adults aged 20-44 years (2%-4%) and highest among adults aged 75-84 years (11%-31%)," says the report.

The experts say that among 44 cases with known outcomes, 15 (34%) deaths were reported among adults aged 85 years and above, 20 (46%) among adults aged 65-84 years and nine (20%) among adults aged 20-64 years. Case fatality percentages increased with increasing age, from no deaths reported among people aged 19 years or less to the highest percentages (10%-27%) among adults aged 85 years or above.

These findings are similar to data from China, which indicated over 80% of deaths occurred among people aged 60 years or more. "Similar to reports from other countries, this finding suggests that the risk for serious disease and death from COVID-19 is higher in older age groups," say the experts. They, however, emphasize that the preliminary data also demonstrate that "severe illness leading to hospitalization, including ICU admission and death, can occur in adults of any age with COVID-19."


49M US adults are 65 years and above

The CDC says that an estimated 49 million US adults are 65 years or older and many of these adults, who are at risk for severe COVID-19–associated illness, might depend on services and support to maintain their health and independence. 

A marquee outside the Lake Theater & Café in downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon, reminds people to practice social distancing and stay home if sick (AP Photo)

"To prepare for potential COVID-19 illness among persons at high risk, family members and caregivers of older adults should know what medications they are taking and ensure that food and required medical supplies are available. Long term care facilities should be particularly vigilant to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19," the CDC recommends.

Additionally, say experts, clinicians who care for adults should be aware that COVID-19 can result in severe disease among people of all ages. "Persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should monitor their symptoms and call their provider for guidance if symptoms worsen or seek emergency care for persistent severe symptoms," says the CDC.

The experts recommend social distancing for all ages to slow the spread of the virus, protect the health care system, and help protect vulnerable older adults. Similar to recommendations made earlier by the CDC, the report suggests that older adults should maintain adequate supplies of non-perishable foods and at least a 30-day supply of necessary medications. 

"Older adults should take precautions to keep space between themselves and others, stay away from those who are sick, avoid crowds as much as possible, avoid cruise travel and nonessential air travel, and stay home as much as possible to further reduce the risk of being exposed," says the CDC.


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