Youth and being a coronavirus “superspreader” go hand in hand, according to a telling new study.
People younger than 60 are three times as likely to infect others in comparison to older individuals, researchers at Emory University and the Georgia Department of Public Health have found.
Study authors analyzed reported cases of COVID-19 in five Georgia counties between March and May, and discovered that younger people are exponentially more likely to spread the disease to others. They published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on Thursday.
“Our results suggest that the younger cases [under 60 years old] may be, overall, 2.78 times more infectious than elderly cases,” the authors wrote, concluding that their findings “have important implications for the planning of relaxing social distancing and, more generally, designing optimal control measures.”
The study comes on the heels of the World Health Organization emphasizing the outsize role younger adults are playing in continuing to spread the virus — especially as they head back to school and the college party scene.
“People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving the spread,” WHO’s Western Pacific regional director, Takeshi Kasai, said during a briefing this month, Business Insider reported. “Many are unaware they are infected. This increases the risk of spillovers to the more vulnerable.”
White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci has long blamed young Americans for not sufficiently fearing the virus.
“The overwhelming majority of people who are now getting infected are young people, like the people that you see in the clips in the paper or out in the crowds enjoying themselves,” Fauci said in late June. “The thing that you really need to realize [is] when you do that, you are part of a process, so if you get infected, you will infect someone else.”
And while younger individuals are statistically less likely to die from the new virus, they are far from immune: Many 20-somethings with no previous problems are facing long-term health issues since contracting the disease.