Story at a glance

  • Birx urged millennials not to have large gatherings.
  • In France, more than half of seriously ill coronavirus patients in ICU were younger than 60.
  • Health officials generally believe the coronavirus is a greater threat to adults older than 60 with underlying health issues.

United States health officials are warning that millennials could also be at serious risk of complications from the novel coronavirus, as scientists previously thought young adults were largely spared. 

“There are concerning reports coming out of France and Italy about some young people getting seriously ill and very seriously ill in the ICUs,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said Wednesday, urging young people to stay home.

“We have not seen any significant mortality in the children, but we are concerned about the early reports coming out of Italy and France. So again, I’m going to call on that generation...not only calling on you to heed what’s in the guidance, but to really ensure that each and every one of you are protecting each other,” Birx said. 

France’s top health official said last week that more than 50 percent of serious coronavirus patients in intensive care are under the age of 60. Meanwhile, European data has recently shown that millennial-age people may have a disproportionate number of infections compared with older groups of people. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that while health officials are still learning how COVID-19 affects people, the virus seems to affect older adults and people with underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. WHO says early reports suggest illness severity is associated with those older than 60.

A study from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) found the virus poses the greatest threat to elderly people with preexisting health issues as well. 

WHO says that the majority of people who become infected generally experience only mild symptoms, such as cough and fever. 

Birx said people in their 20s, 30s and 40s could be in more danger than previously thought, and questioned whether the higher hospitalization rates for younger people in Europe was the result of that demographic making up a significant share of the population. 

Published on Mar 18, 2020