Young people are not invincible against the coronavirus. They must avoid socialising, and communicating in person with older, and more vulnerable people, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The decisions that young people make can be "the difference between life and death for someone else", WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The statement from the WHO chief comes after reports of young people in many countries are behaving with complacency about health warnings - due to older patients being understood as more vulnerable to the virus than younger people.
Early data from China that examined the country's first 44,000 cases suggested that the most severe cases and deaths of COVID-19 occurred in adults aged 60 and older and those with underlying conditions.
Less than 1% of patients under the age of 50 died in China, according to the New York Times. This disease was however fatal for nearly 15% of those who were over the age of 80.
New statistics from COVID-19 cases in the USA demonstrate that up to one-fifth of coronavirus cases involving people aged 20 to 44 have resulted in hospitalisation. .
The first report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 1 in 5 people admitted to hospital diagnosed with coronavirus in the USA were between the ages of 20 and 44.
The disease can also affect younger adults.
Data from the website Statista states that almost 25% of people in Italy infected with coronavirus are between the ages of 19 and 50 - that’s almost 28,000 patients.
Coronavirus should not be underestimated
Speaking at an online news conference from WHO headquarters in Geneva, Mr Tedros said: "Although older people are hardest hit, younger people are not spared."
The World Health Organisation warned that people of any age can be affected by the virus - but it is especially dangerous for older people and those with underlying health conditions.
While the risks of severe complications or death are much higher for older people and those with underlying health conditions, Dr. Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the Director-General of WHO, says that COVID-19 is more dangerous for young people than many realise.
Dr Aylward commented: “One of the things that terrifies me now - as coronavirus is spread in the west, there’s this sense of invulnerability among millennials.
“Yet, significantly - we don’t understand why some young healthy people progress to severe disease and even die, and others don’t.”
He also stressed to never underestimate a new disease, because there are simply too many unknowns.
Young people around the world need to understand that the coronavirus is not a trivial infection. They, along with everyone else should do everything within their power to help combat its spread.
As the UK announced new stricter measures last night (23 March 2020) coming into immediate effect - it's hoped the severity of the pandemic will be taken seriously by all.
There is emerging evidence that suggests both young people, young children or babies may also be at risk of serious complications. Research published this week in the journal Pediatrics looked at cases of more than 2,000 young children diagnosed with COVID-19 in China. Doctors found that about 11% of cases seen in infants were defined as “severe” or “critical”, as were 7% of young children and those of preschool age.
While these cases present a lower rate of serious illness than seen in adults, these statistics are not insignificant.
It is clear that more widespread testing and follow-up is needed to better determine risk factors and implications of COVID-19, but it is increasingly evident that this virus is not selective in terms of infection.
Reference: Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) — United States, February 12–March 16, 2020 CDC COVID-19 Response Team MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Published March 18, 2020. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6912e2.