COVID-19, after the many months of its practically all-consuming effects across the planet, is too often still viewed as a disease only dangerous to the elderly or those with underlying conditions. Put simply, this is not the case.
More than six in every ten people (62.5 percent) hospitalised due to COVID-19 in India are below the age of forty, according to an analysis of around 200,000 COVID-19 hospitalisations in India by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s Integrated Surveillance Programme. The finding is in line with trends observed worldwide. While it has been observed that the bulk of deaths associated with the disease have taken place in elderly populations, severe cases have not been limited to this demographic.
The data from the Integrated Surveillance Programme indicated that only nine percent of those hospitalised were older than sixty years of age, making the elderly group a clear minority. According to the data, 25.84 percent were in the 21-30 age demographic. A further 22.48 percent were between the ages of 31 and forty. This would indicate that almost half of all severe cases are occurring in a group ordinarily thought to be in the prime of their life.
The news comes as an additional concern when the prolonged effects of COVID-19 are taken into account. While deaths are not occurring in this group at the same rate as in the elderly, the documented effects of COVID-19 causing permanent issues to both the lungs and heart are of great concern for a younger group. The effects of the disease could contribute to surging noncommunicable disease rates in the years to come.
As noted by Health Issues India in May, citing a commentary published in The Lancet, there is the potential for “permanent health issues developing in those who recover from the condition…the commentary notes that in patients from the Chinese city of Wuhan — the pandemic’s epicentre — chest CT scans showed bilateral ground glass opacities following recovery from the virus.”
A particular concern in India is COVID-19’s capacity to exacerbate and cause issues with heart health. Researchers in the United States have found that those affected by COVID-19 may display symptoms of heart damage such as inflammation and injury. In India, where heart disease is the most common cause of death as of 2016, any additional risk factors and causes for the condition are a major cause for concern.
More must be done to highlight that COVID-19 is not simply a disease that poses a risk to the elderly. Younger individuals who are affected by the disease, in addition to the risk of death due to the disease, could be exposing themselves to health conditions that current evidence suggests to be both severe and permanent.