80 Percent of These People With COVID Never Develop Symptoms, Study Says

A recent study found that the vast majority of younger people may never know they're infected.

With COVID-19 cases surging across the U.S., many medical experts believe that infected people who aren't showing symptoms may be responsible for spreading the virus. And while there have been no definitive answers as to exactly why the virus affects some people more than others, researchers are beginning to find that specific demographics are less likely to ever show signs of having contracted the coronavirus. One recent study, for example, makes clear that age has a major impact on how infections play out, finding that over 80 percent of people with coronavirus 20 and under never develop any kind of symptoms.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, analyzed data on 5,484 patients from the Lombardy region of Italy who had been in contact with people who had recently been infected by COVID-19. The researchers classified any patient with a fever or respiratory distress, such as a cough or shortness of breath, as symptomatic.

The findings showed that among infected individuals under 20 years old, 81.9 percent never developed symptoms. By comparison, only 35.4 percent of subjects 80 years old or older were asymptomatic.

Granddaughter runs grandparents into a hug during the coronavirus pandemi

The findings shed light on the importance of the so-called "silent spreader," or contagious people who have been infected with COVID-19 but who have yet to—or never will—show signs or symptoms.

"This work allows us to clearly show the difficulties in identifying infections with surveillance since the majority of these are not associated with respiratory symptoms or fever," study co-author and infectious disease transmission expert Stefano Merler told Medical News Today.

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Experts suggests that as younger people feel they are less likely to be threatened by the virus, they are less likely to practice safe behaviors such as social distancing or wearing a face mask. They've also been chided by local officials for congregating in large numbers, leading to outbreaks in communities across the U.S.

"There is now more and more evidence emerging about the role of asymptomatic people in the spread of this virus, so just because you're not feeling ill doesn't mean it's fine to go out to the bars, go out to the restaurants because you one, can pick it up, and two, maybe inadvertently spread it to others," Sean T. O'Leary, MD, told AAP News. "This is not to be taken lightly. This is like nothing anyone alive has ever seen, and we are all in this together." And for more on where young people are causing COVID to surge, check out Young People Are Responsible for Coronavirus Spikes in These 5 States.

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Zachary Mack
Zachary covers beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He's the owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York City and is a Certified Cicerone. Read more
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