Adolescents, Young Adults May Be More Susceptible to COVID-19 Than Previously Believed

Adolescents and young adults may be more susceptible to COVID-19 than previously believed, according to analysis of cases in six U.S. states experiencing surges.

As Rumain, et al. (2021) acknowledge, "There has been considerable controversy regarding susceptibility of adolescents (10–19 years) and youth (15–24 years) to COVID-19. However, a number of studies have reported that adolescents are significantly less susceptible than older adults. Summer 2020 provided an opportunity to examine data on prevalence since after months of lockdowns, with the easing of restrictions, people were mingling, leading to surges in cases."

The researchers examined data from Departments of Health websites in six U.S. states experiencing surges in cases to determine prevalence of COVID-19, and two prevalence-related measures, in adolescents and youth as compared to older adults. The two other measures related to prevalence were: (Percentage of cases observed in a given age group) ÷ (percentage of cases expected based on population demographics); and percentage deviation, or [(% observed—% expected)/ % expected] x 100.

Prevalence of COVID-19 for adolescents and for youth was significantly greater than for older adults (p < .00001), as was percentage observed ÷ percentage expected (p < .005). The percentage deviation was significantly greater in adolescents/youth than in older adults (p < 0.00001) when there was an excess of observed cases over what was expected, and significantly less when observed cases were fewer than expected (p< 0.00001).

The researchers say their results are contrary to previous findings that adolescents are less susceptible than older adults: "Possible reasons for the findings are suggested, and we note that public health messaging targeting adolescents and youth might be helpful in curbing the pandemic. Also, the findings of the potential for high transmission among adolescents and youth, should be factored into decisions regarding school reopening."

Reference: Rumain B, et al. Prevalence of COVID-19 in adolescents and youth compared with older adults in states experiencing surges. PLoS ONE 16(3): e0242587. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0242587

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