If You're Under This Age, You're Twice as Likely to Transmit Coronavirus

You also might be one of the main drivers of super-spreading, new research says.

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Throughout the pandemic, health officials often communicated to the public that the coronavirus primarily targeted older adults and the elderly—or least that they were the demographic most at risk for severe, potentially fatal, cases of COVID-19. For a significant stretch of time, many young people seemed to feel less threatened by the virus, under the impression that if they did become infected, it would be little more than the equivalent of having a bad cold. And while we do know the elderly are still at high risk for severe coronavirus symptoms, much has changed in what we know about how the virus affects other generations. In fact, young people have been responsible for recent spikes of new cases in some parts of the country. Now, a new study suggests that children and adults under the age of 60 are more than twice as likely to transmit coronavirus than those over 60.

Researchers from Emory University set out to characterize super-spreading events and how a person's age influenced their rate of infectivity, or likelihood to transmit coronavirus to others. The team examined nearly 10,000 cases of symptomatic COVID-19 collected by the Georgia Department of Public, which included all demographic data. The study has yet to be peer reviewed, but results were shared with medRxiv in the meantime. Based on their analysis, the research team estimated that "infected children and younger adults" under the age of 60 years old may be 2.38 times more transmissible than infected individuals over age 60.

young adults at a social club
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What's more, the study's authors concluded that the same age group may be the main driver of super-spreading, which they define as "a phenomenon where certain individuals disproportionately infect a large number of secondary cases relative to an 'average' infectious individual."

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The study only examined individuals in Georgia, and there are limitations to be expected with such a narrow focus. However, the estimates made by the researchers seem to be accurate in how things are playing out in real life in the Southern state. According to reporting from NPR on June 30, in five counties in Georgia the age groups responsible for the largest number of new cases in the past two weeks were 18 to 24; 25 to 34; and 35 to 49.

Whether it's due to caution fatigue or any other number of factors, it seems that younger adults and children are making themselves more susceptible to the coronavirus and spreading it far more rapidly than older adults and elderly. And to learn more about where the pandemic is headed, check out why the CDC Warns That the Recent Coronavirus Surge Is "Really the Beginning."

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