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Severe Illness From COVID-19 Can Occur In Adults Of All Ages

News stories about the coronavirus called COVID-19 now sweeping the globe have stressed that people over the age of 60, or people immunocompromised in some way, or with underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable to the virus. Which led many people to think that in persons younger than 60 getting a COVID-19 infection wasn't a big deal.

However, a report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) looking at COVID-19 cases in the United States that occurred during February 12–March 16, 2020, found that surprisingly large numbers of younger adults also require hospitalization. They reported that nearly 40% of younger adults with COVID-19 between the ages of 20 and 54 wind up being hospitalized, and that nearly half of people admitted to intensive care units were under the age of 65. And there were some deaths.

On the other hand, no ICU admissions or deaths were reported among persons aged less than 19 years. Whew...

Still, the authors wrote, “these preliminary data also demonstrate that severe illness leading to hospitalization, including I.C.U. admission and death, can occur in adults of any age with Covid-19".

Excerpt from NY Times: Younger Adults Make Up Big Portion of Coronavirus Hospitalizations in U.S

New C.D.C. data shows that nearly 40 percent of patients sick enough to be hospitalized were age 20 to 54. But the risk of dying was significantly higher in older people.

American adults of all ages — not just those in their 70s, 80s and 90s — are being seriously sickened by the coronavirus, according to a report on nearly 2,500 of the first recorded cases in the United States.

The report, issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that — as in other countries — the oldest patients had the greatest likelihood of dying and of being hospitalized. But of the 508 patients known to have been hospitalized, 38 percent were notably younger — between 20 and 54. And nearly half of the 121 patients who were admitted to intensive care units were adults under 65, the C.D.C. reported.

In the C.D.C. report, 20 percent of the hospitalized patients and 12 percent of the intensive care patients were between the ages of 20 and 44, basically spanning the millennial generation.

The ages were reported for 2,449 of those patients, the C.D.C. said, and of those, 6 percent were 85 and older, and 25 percent were between 65 and 84. Twenty-nine percent were aged 20 to 44. The age groups of 55 to 64 and 45 to 54 each included 18 percent of the total. Only 5 percent of cases were diagnosed in people 19 and younger.

The report included no information about whether patients of any age had underlying risk factors, such as a chronic illness or a compromised immune system. So, it is impossible to determine whether the younger patients who were hospitalized were more susceptible to serious infection than most others in their age group.

The youngest age group, people 19 and under, accounted for less than 1 percent of the hospitalizations, and none of the I.C.U. admissions or deaths. This dovetails with data from other countries so far. This week, however, the largest study to date of pediatric cases in China found that a small segment of very young children may need hospitalization for very serious symptoms, and that one 14-year-old boy in China died from the virus.

Of the 44 people whose deaths were recorded in the report, 15 were age 85 or older and 20 were between the ages of 65 to 84. There were nine deaths among adults age 20 to 64, the report said.

Some of the patients in the study are still sick, the authors noted, so the results of their cases are unclear. Data was missing for a number of the cases, “which likely resulted in an underestimation of the outcomes,” the authors wrote. Because of the missing data, the authors presented percentages of hospitalizations, I.C.U. admissions and deaths as a range. The report also says that the limited testing available in the United States so far makes this report only an early snapshot of the crisis.

From CDC: Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) — United States, February 12–March 16, 2020

Novel coronavirus COVID-19. Credit: NIAID-RML

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