WHO warns more young people dying from coronavirus


Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday that they are seeing more cases of young people dying from the coronavirus. 

“We are seeing more and more younger individuals who are experiencing severe disease,” Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said at an online news briefing.

“We’ve seen some data from a number of countries across Europe where people of younger age have died,” Van Kerkhove added. “Some of those individuals have had underlying conditions, but some have not.”

Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s emergencies program, noted that in Italy, which has less confirmed cases than the U.S. but more reported deaths, 10 to 15 percent of all people in intensive care are under 50. In Korea, one in six deaths has been a person under the age of 60.

Public health officials previously said that the elderly and those with preexisting conditions are the most at risk of experiencing severe illness. Ryan said those messages might have emboldened younger people to ignore public health recommendations. 

“There was a tendency for the last several months, almost a dismissive attitude to say, ‘Well, this disease is severe in older people and it’s fine in younger people,’ ” Ryan said. “We collectively have been living in a world where we’ve tried to convince ourselves that this disease is mild in young people and more severe in older people and that’s where the problem is.”

On Thursday, WHO said that although more than 95 percent of coronavirus deaths in Europe were individuals age 60 or older young people are still at risk.

“The very notion that COVID-19 only affects older people is factually wrong,” Hans Kluge, head of the WHO’s Europe office, said during an online news conference in Copenhagen on Thursday, The Associated Press reported. “Young people are not invincible.”

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