Story at a glance

  • Health experts said the age distribution of coronavirus cases is going down in many countries as societies begin to open up.
  • The trend is unsurprising as initial surveillance in the beginning of the pandemic focused on the most severe cases.
  • “But as we learn more, as surveillance learns more and as testing improves, you can identify people on the mild end of the spectrum,” she said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday said the average age of people becoming infected with the coronavirus is trending downward in many countries as restrictions are slowly being lifted. 

“We are seeing a shift in the age distribution of the cases being reported, and so what we’re learning here is that as societies are opening up and as people are going about their daily lives...the average age of the person infected in many countries is going down,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the American leading the technical team investigating the virus, said during a Q&A Wednesday afternoon. 


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The health expert said the trend was not surprising as surveillance is focused on the most severe patients in the beginning of a pandemic, which tend to be older adults and those with preexisting conditions. 

“But as we learn more, as surveillance improves and as testing improves, you can identify people on the mild end of the spectrum,” she said. 

But Kerkhove warned that the WHO has observed an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations among people aged 15 to 44 in several countries.

“That is incredibly worrying,” she said. 

The WHO official noted that the coronavirus is spreading at a worrying pace in some parts of the northern hemisphere a few months away from the winter influenza season. 

“We are seeing increases in hospitalizations, in intensive care units, particularly in certain parts of Europe, in Spain, in France, Montenegro, Ukraine and some states in the United States. That is worrying because we’re in mid-September and we have not seen the flu season yet,” she said. 

Kerkhove said, however, that the world is not in the same position as it was when the pandemic first kicked off as experts have learned much about how the coronavirus behaves and countries are much better equipped to handle outbreaks. 


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Published on Sep 16, 2020