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You probably won’t die of coronavirus, but maybe you do transmit it: So you can care for the older people in your family

In China, 15% of people over 80 infected with Covid-19 died of the disease.

3 min read

This story originally appeared on World Economic Forum

You probably won’t die of coronavirus, but maybe you do transmit it: So you can care for the older people in your family
You probably won’t die of coronavirus, but maybe you do transmit it: So you can care for the older people in your family

By Robin Pomeroy , Digital Editor, World Economic Forum

The good news about COVID-19 is that children and youth seem unlikely to develop serious symptoms. The bad news is that it appears that they can still carry the disease and pass it on to older people who are at much higher risk of dying from it.

This graph shows the mortality rate by age group of people infected with COVID-19 in China. People under the age of 40 appear to have a 0.2% chance of death if they catch the virus, while for those over 80 the risk is 15%.

COVID-19 deaths in China, by age.

COVID-19 deaths in China, by age / Image: Our World in Data

In countries where people are still allowed to meet and move freely, this could mean that young people – who are much more socially active than older people – may be unknowingly spreading the virus at a high rate, putting danger to the generation of their elders.

Harvard public health scientist Eric Feigl-Ding raised the alarm on his Twitter channel, citing data on infection rates in South Korea, which has been shown much more widely than, say, Italy:

Although most of these young people have a small chance of having a serious illness, they will be carriers of the disease.

“The problem is that young people are probably 10 times more active and social than older people and can infect 10 times more people (especially if # COVID19 is mild and not noticed by young adults,” Feigl-Ding wrote.

Italy and Spain have followed the example of China's Wuhan province, the epicenter of the outbreak, by imposing a “blockade”: severe restrictions on people's freedom of movement, in an effort to curb transmission of the virus.

In the UK, which has so far taken a much lighter approach, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that over the next few weeks, people over the age of 70 will be asked to stay home for “a very long time long, “believed to be at least 12 weeks.

“We will stop at nothing to combat this virus and I think people have the impression that it is not,” Hancock told the BBC.

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