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COVID-19 may be severe and long lasting even in young people

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
August 17, 2020 - 7:30 AM

The recent spike in B.C. COVID-19 cases has been triggered largely by young people getting the disease who are not necessarily getting very sick.

But the after-effects of even mild symptoms may be severe, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry warned during a COVID-19 update yesterday, Aug. 13.

“The thing that we’re hearing from young people is that (they’re experiencing) fatigue, difficulty in even sitting up, profound fatigue that lasts for long periods of time,” she said. “For those people who do have pneumonia, (they have) difficulty breathing, shortness of breath that can last for a long time.

“We’ve also seen in young teenagers and young adults that they can have a post-viral syndrome that can cause inflammation of the blood vessels that have been called a number of different things around the world. We have not seen any cases yet in B.C. that have been diagnosed but we’ve been watching for this syndrome that we’ve seen this around the world. We are learning there can be long-term impacts that can be quite severe, even for young people, that have lasted for many weeks or months for some people.”

Henry presented graphs on the number of cases of COVID-19 by age group per week. They showed that, at the peak of the pandemic in March, people aged 50 to 59 led the way with more than 90 cases per week.

Now, people who are 20 to 29 years old are contracting the disease at a rate of more than 110 cases per week while that older cohort is in the 30 per week range.

Image Credit: Submitted/B.C. Centre for Disease Control

As of Aug. 6, there were 691 people aged 30-39 who had tested positive for COVID-19 and another 648 cases for those aged 20-29. Those made up 35 per cent of the 3,863 cases diagnosed at that time.

Those age groups accounted for only 10 per cent of the 550 people who have been hospitalized with the disease and none of the 195 deaths as of Aug. 6.

Those aged 50 to 69 made up another 30 per cent of the cases but 24 per cent of those hospitalized. While no one under the age of 40 has died from COVID-19 in B.C., 22 of those in the 50-69 age group have died.

Those who are 70 or older make up 88 per cent of all deaths in B.C.

Image Credit: Submitted/B.C. Centre for Disease Control

The long-term consequences of getting COVID-19 can be dangerous for people of all ages.

“We know, for a sub-group of people – more likely to be men than women for reasons that we don’t completely understand – that they have increased clotting in their blood and that can lead to clotting of the arteries around the heart, heart attacks or can lead to challenges with brain injury or with pulmonary embolism, things like clots in the lungs that can actually happen weeks later,” Dr. Henry said.

Image Credit: Submitted/B.C. Centre for Disease Control

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