Neurological, Cardiac Issues Linger in COVID-19 Youth

Young people have suffered less under the COVID-19 virus than older people medically, but experts say the gap has narrowed, and so-called superspreading among the young is a factor.“The FILE – A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, Sept. 30, 2014.A woman wearing face mask walks on a street in Hong Kong, Feb. 18, 2020. COVID-19 viral illness has sickened millions of people in China since December.In December 2019, as COVID-19 was emerging in China, colleges and universities worldwide released hundreds of thousands of students home for winter break. Many of the more than 360,000 Chinese students who study in the U.S. returned to China for the holiday.A month later, they and other international students returned to their campuses in the U.S. and around the world as COVID-19 was gaining speed.In March, U.S. colleges and universities began their spring breaks, times when students traditionally head to warm beach destinations, such as in Florida, Texas and Mexico, to blow off steam after studying for midterms.Dr. Sean O’Leary, associate professor of pediatrics-infectious diseases at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, told VOA that in response to the wave of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., many universities shut down their campuses, sent students home or asked them to return from spring break to clean out their rooms, and then put them on airplanes for points around the country.“From the perspective of the U.S. as a country, was that the best choice?” O’Leary asked. Campuses were “one place where we knew there was widespread transmission.”Lauterbach said the disease is insidious in younger people because they typically show only mild or no symptoms, and scientists now believe that 80% of COVID-19 transmission occurs among those who don’t seem ill.Kids ride their bikes at Las Heras park after lockdown measures to fight the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic were relaxed, in Buenos Aires, on July 21, 2020.A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics  looked at more than 2,000 youths ages 18 and younger in China.Doctors from Shanghai Children’s Medical Center and Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine wrote that where the virus first emerged, in Hubei province, 13% of confirmed cases had asymptomatic infection, a rate that “almost certainly understates the true rate of asymptomatic infection, since many asymptomatic children are unlikely to be tested.”Research published Aug. 6 by JAMA Internal Medicinefound that many COVID-19 patients remained asymptomatic for a prolonged period, and the viral load was similar to that of symptomatic patients. Older children have also been shown to transmit the coronavirus as much as adults, according to a large study from South Korea. The study, which analyzed nearly 65,000 people in South Korea, found that children younger than 10 were around half as likely to spread the virus as adults. However, young people ages 10 to 19 years old are more likely than other age groups to disperse COVID-19 into households.Of 10,592 household contacts, 11.8% had COVID-19, with 18.6% being index patients ages 10 to 19. It was 1.9% for the 48,481 non-household contacts.“We should make it clear to younger people that if they behave in a careless fashion, that they are not only putting themselves, their peers, older people and peers [with underlying conditions] at risk,” Lauterbach said, “but they put themselves at risk and their best friends. So, we need to convey a message that this is a serious disease for all age groups.”“It is quite clear that not many young people die from the disease,” Lauterbach said.“But it is astonishing that we see very, let’s say, remarkable numbers of younger people in the ICU and also often on ventilator support,” he said.“Currently, we do not know whether they will fully recover their lung function or not. We definitely do not know that for certain. So, we have to take this way more seriously than we did in the past.” Kathleen Struck contributed to this report.

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