Healthy young people are becoming ill with coronavirus, prompting concerns millennials may be more vulnerable than initially thought.
The US coronavirus task force co-ordinator, Dr Deborah Birx, said she was concerned there would be a “disproportional” number of infections among millenials.
The majority of deaths from COVID-19, which increased to more than 8,700 globally on Wednesday, have been the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
However, there have been some healthy young people who have died from the virus, including Li Wenliang, 34, the doctor who was warned by Chinese police for trying to tell medics about the virus in December.
He died in early February after contracting the disease.
Advice from governments around the world, and the World Health Organisation, is that elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are most at risk, with many countries telling them to be more careful and self-isolate.
Dr Birx told a White House briefing on Wednesday: “There are concerning reports coming out of France and Italy about young people getting very seriously ill.
“It may have been that the millennial generation – our largest generation, our future generation that will carry us through for the next multiple decades – there may be a disproportional number of infections among that group.
“We think part of this may be that people heeded the early data coming out of China and coming out of South Korea of the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions were a particular risk.
“And so, even if it’s a rare occurrence, it may be seen more frequently in that group and evident now.”
She added that they had “not seen any significant mortality in children”.
Canada’s health minister also voiced concerns, saying people in their 30s are becoming seriously ill from the virus and are needed ventilators to stay alive.
She said they are seeing the situation in Ontario and also in New York.
A doctor in Belgium said he has treated several seriously sick young patients whose lung scans were “nothing short of terrifying”, local media reported.
Dr Ignace Demeyer, who works at a hospital in Aalst, a town near Brussels, said more people between the ages of 30 and 50 are arriving with severe symptoms.
He told the Brussels Times they have “blank medical records” with no underlying conditions to make them high risk.
“They are people who do not smoke, who have no other conditions such as diabetes or heart failure,” he said.
He added that all the young patients he has seen have been sick for a week with the flu then they feel fine for a few days before reporting a dry cough and shortness of breath and tests show they have very low oxygen levels in their blood for their age.
“They just walk in, but they are terribly affected by the virus,” he told VRT News.