‘Epidemic is Changing’: COVID-19 Spreading Rapidly Among Young People, WHO Warns

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A top World Health Organization (WHO) official is warning that COVID-19 is now spreading rapidly among younger people.

During a Tuesday briefing, Takeshi Kasai, the WHO's regional health director for the Western Pacific, revealed that the virus is spreading fastest among people in their 20s and 30s in many countries due to the relaxing of pandemic-related social restrictions.

Kasai also noted that many younger people have fewer symptoms or are completely asymptomatic, which poses a danger to elderly populations.

“The epidemic is changing: people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving its spread,” Kasai said during the briefing.

“Many are unaware they’re infected - with very mild symptoms or none at all. This can result in them unknowingly passing on the virus to others. This increases the risk of spillovers to the most vulnerable: the elderly, the sick, people in long-term care, people who live in densely-populated urban areas and under-served rural areas. We must redouble efforts to stop the virus from moving into vulnerable communities,” he added.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who also serves on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, warned in June that as many as 40% of new COVID-19 cases at the time, especially among young adults, involved patients who showed few, if any, symptoms, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported at the time.

“We’d better be careful when we say ‘Young people who don’t wind up in the hospital are fine, let them get infected, it’s OK.’ No, it’s not OK,” Fauci also warned during a American Society for Microbiology briefing on Monday, CNN reported.

“In individuals who are young and otherwise healthy, who don't require hospitalization but do get sick and symptomatic enough to be in bed for a week or two or three and then get better, they clear the virus - they have residual symptoms for weeks and sometimes months,” Fauci added, also noting that checkups show that many such young patients “have a substantially high proportion of cardiovascular abnormalities.”

Kasai and Fauci’s concerns come as many US schools and colleges have reopened or are currently preparing to reopen. In Florida, for instance, Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold up to $200 million in funding from the Hillsborough County School District, one of the nation’s largest districts, if it does not physically reopen schools.

In other cities like Chicago, Illinois, some students have returned to in-person learning centers but are not required to, according to the New York Times. In New Jersey, Governor Philip Murphy gave districts the option to provide all-virtual learning classes after facing opposition from the state’s teachers’ union to resuming in-person instruction.

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