CDC: Early Data Show Younger Adults Not Spared from Coronavirus Risks

March 19, 2020

A CDC analysis of preliminary data suggests that COVID-19 complications can occur in adults of any age.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) can result in severe complications, causing hospitalization, admission to intensive care units (ICUs), and death. Although these outcomes are more common among older adults and those with underlying health conditions, preliminary data demonstrate that younger adults are not exempt from this risk.1

The study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is the first preliminary description of outcomes among patients with COVID-19 in the United States.

Because the CDC does not have complete data for all confirmed cases, the analysis provides a range for its estimates. US cases counted between February 12 to March 16 were included in the report; however, the number of confirmed cases is now most likely well below the actual number of cases.

Although health outcomes are more likely to be worse among those who are older and have preexisting conditions, COVID-19-related complications are still a threat to younger individuals who contract the virus.  

Among the outcomes data from 2449 patients in the CDC’s analysis with known age, 6% were older than 85 years of age, 25% were aged 65 to 84 years old, 18% were aged 55 to 64 years of age, and 29% were aged 20 to 44 years old. Only 5% of those cases occurred in individuals under the age of 19, according to the report.

As previously estimated, fatality is highest among individuals in older age brackets. The report showed that most of the deaths were seen in individuals aged 85 years and older, ranging from 10% to 17%, followed by 3% to 11% among individuals aged 65 to 84 years old, and 1% to 3% among those aged 55 to 64 years old. Less than >1% of those aged 20 to 54 years of age have died from the virus, and no fatalities were observed in individuals younger than 19.

Among 508 patients known to have been hospitalized from the preliminary data, 9% were older than 85 years old, 26% were aged 65 to 84 years old, 17% were aged 55 to 64 years old, 18% were aged 45 to 54 years old, and 20% were aged 20 to 44 years old. Less than 1% of individuals aged 19 years and younger were hospitalized. Percentages of ICU admissions were also highest among adults aged 75 to 84 years old.

“These findings are similar to data from China, which indicated >80% of deaths occurred among persons aged ≥60 years,” the researchers wrote in the report. “These preliminary data also demonstrate that severe illness leading to hospitalization, including ICU admission and death, can occur in adults of any age with COVID-19.”

The researchers noted limitations to their findings, such as that data were missing for key variables of interest, which likely resulted in underestimation of these outcomes. Additionally, data on other risk factors, such as underlying health conditions and severe illness, were unavailable.

“Additional investigation will increase the understanding about persons who are at risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19 and inform clinical guidance and community-based mitigation measures,” they wrote.

According to the Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center, there are a confirmed 9415 cases of COVID-19 in the United States to date and a total of 150 deaths to date.2

References:

1. CDC COVID-19 Response Team. Severe outcomes among patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)–United States, February 12-March 16, 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. March 18, 2020. Doi:  http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6912e2

2. Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html. Accessed March 19, 2020.