A paramedic takes a patient to an emergency room at Hackensack Meridian Health Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, New Jersey on December 11, 2020.
I have Betancur | AFP | Getty Images
Dr. Paul Offit, a doctor at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, said he is now seeing more patients with a rare inflammatory disease, a complication of Covid-19, than he has seen since the pandemic began.
In Texas, Dr. James McDeavitt, Dean of Clinical Affairs at Baylor College of Medicine, said he and his colleagues are noticing an increase in the admissions of young people with Covid-19, although he did not yet have accurate dates to support the anecdotal evidence.
Both doctors attributed the increase in hospital visits by teenagers and young adults, at least in part, to B.1.1.7, the coronavirus variant first identified in the UK, which, according to health authorities, is currently the most common variety circulating in the US The variant is highly contagious and is believed to be about 60% more transmissible than the original virus strain.
“I think they’ll get infected more often because of the virus they’ve got,” said Offit, a health expert in virology and immunology who also serves on advisory boards for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. “Because of this, I think you will see and see more diseases” in children and young adults.
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said earlier this month that more and more younger adults are being admitted to hospitals with Covid-19 as new, more contagious variants of the virus spread faster than ever. The number of 18- to 64-year-olds who visit emergency rooms with Covid is increasing nationwide, while the number of visits to patients aged 65 and over is decreasing. This emerges from a slide that Walensky presented at a press conference last week.
“Cases and emergency rooms are on,” said Walensky. “We are seeing this increase in younger adults, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated.”
In New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo said last week the state was seeing an increase in the rate of Covid positivity in people aged 18 to 24. In Michigan, where Covid-19 cases and hospital stays are increasing rapidly, case rates are at an all-time high for those ages 19 and younger, according to state data released April 6. Hospital admissions are increasing for all age groups, with the largest increase occurring in people between the ages of 40 and 49, according to the state.
Health experts say the problem is diverse: older teens and young adults were among the last to be preferred to the Covid-19 vaccines, and many of them haven’t got a chance yet. In addition, young adults are believed to be involved in higher-risk behaviors, such as: B. Sports in close contact, going out in bars, attending unmasked meetings or traveling.
According to health experts, these factors in connection with the highly contagious variant B.1.1.7 should lead to an increase in young people going to the hospital.
We are “seeing less disease in the elderly due to vaccination, so we will now see proportionally more disease in young adults,” said Dr. Stephen Schrantz, an infectious disease expert at UChicago Medicine, added that it is still unclear how much of the increase is due to strain B.1.1.7 alone.
Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said there was evidence that B.1.1.7 caused more symptoms and more severe illness. He said health officials in the US and other countries where exposure is prevalent could see a shift towards unvaccinated young people ending up in hospitals or even in intensive care units.
“There are things that are not currently working in our favor, namely B.1.1.7 and other worrying variants,” he said.
Even if more young people could get sick, Schrantz of UChicago doesn’t expect many of them to get seriously ill, especially school-age children. He said young adults with comorbidities like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are likely to be most at risk.
“The severity of the disease depends mainly on two factors – the virus and the host,” said Schrantz.
“As the virus changes, I don’t think the mutations in the spike protein will have increased virulence in children because their bodies, and especially their immune systems, will be less responsive to the virus. In other words, I think the host is the more important variable compared to changes in the virus, “he said.
Offit said he expected the situation to improve as the US vaccinates more adults regardless of age. It also makes it more difficult for the virus to spread from one person to the next as more people have antibodies.
As of Thursday, more than 125 million Americans had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. That’s roughly 37% of the total US population.
Young people “live in the herd,” Offit said. “The more the herd is vaccinated, the less the virus can spread.”