Dr. Anthony Fauci highlighted the range of coronavirus symptoms among young people in an interview with Mark Zuckerberg on Friday.
Some young coronavirus patients “can be knocked on their back and brought to their knees pretty quickly,” Fauci said.
He added that it could take “months to a year or more” to determine whether these patients suffer from chronic illnesses.
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Most young people infected with the coronavirus won’t become seriously ill, but a growing number of young patients report being sick for weeks on end. The nation’s top disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said it may take a while to understand whether these people suffer from long-term illnesses.
“It’s the people who really get knocked out badly, particularly those who require hospitalization, that it’s going to take months to a year or more to determine if there are any long-lasting, deleterious consequences of the infection,” Fauci said during a conversation with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday. “We just don’t know that now. We haven’t had enough time.”
Fauci’s comments follow a drastic rise in coronavirus infections among young adults in the US. People in their 20s, 30s, and 40s represent roughly half of cases in coronavirus hotspots like Arizona and Texas, while people ages 18 to 34 represent more than a third of cases in Florida and California.
“If you look at what’s going on with the new infections, the median age is about a decade and a half younger than it was a few months ago,” Fauci said.
This could have dangerous effects on transmission, he added.
“My message to young people is consider your responsibility to yourself, but also the societal responsibility,” Fauci said. “By allowing yourself to get infected, you are propagating the pandemic.”
Fauci said some patients may develop ‘post-infection syndromes’
As coronavirus cases rise, doctors have started to identify a wider range of symptoms among patients in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
“I’ve never seen an infection with this broad range of manifestations,” Fauci said. Some young people, he added, “can be knocked on their back and brought to their knees pretty quickly.”
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People ages 18 to 29 make up more than four times as many coronavirus hospitalizations as they did a few months ago: around 38 hospitalizations out of every 100,000 people as of July 4, compared to nine hospitalizations out of every 100,000 people on April 18.
A new study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco determined that one in three young adults ages 18 to 25 are vulnerable to severe COVID-19 cases due to factors like smoking habits or preexisting illnesses. But even young, healthy non-smokers have reported feeling sick for several months, with lasting symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath.
Fauci said some patients may suffer from “post-infection syndromes” that resemble chronic fatigue syndrome — a disease often characterized by cognitive impairment, muscle pain, and a debilitating lack of energy. UK doctors also warned of post-viral syndromes among coronavirus patients in June.
“You have to separate the damage from the disease,” Dr. Ramzi Asfour, an infectious-disease doctor in Marin County, California, previously told Business Insider. “The symptoms are probably coming from an immune reaction.”
Asfour said he has seen college-aged patients with mononucleosis who have had severe fatigue for two years, or viral infections that trigger a lifelong autoimmune disease like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. The coronavirus could have similar effects on patients, he said.
“It’s different for different people,” he added. “Usually time heals. But not necessarily always.”
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