As the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to rise across the country, health agencies and local governments warn about the rising trend of young adults testing positive for the virus. While there are several factors, experts say that the shift towards younger patients can be primarily attributed to the increased testing capabilities. Moreover, some speculate that young adults are more likely to be lax about following universal precautions (proper face mask ettiquette, hand hygiene, and staying at least six feet apart from others) as they return to work and gather in person with friends or colleagues.

To understand what this trend means for the COVID-19 outbreak, we sat with Dr. Suman Radhakrishna, Infectious Disease specialist at CHA HPMC.

Over the last few weeks, we have seen a trend of rising cases of COVID-19 among young adults. What does this trend mean for the outbreak?

Since June 2020, we have seen an increasing proportion of individuals in the age group of 25-50 years being hospitalized with COVID-19. We have also detected asymptomatic infection in individuals hospitalized for other issues (pregnancy, surgery) and several of them are in the same age group. We are seeing an increased risk of hospitalization for the younger adults with medical issues such as obesity, asthma, diabetes, and immunosuppressed states. Although deaths in this population is lower than older adults, we have seen cases of young individuals dying of COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Does any particular symptom stand out for younger adults?

Young adults are more likely to have mild symptoms or remain asymptomatic, showing no symptoms at all, for the duration of infection. Fatigue, fever, shortness of breath, nausea, abdominal pain are commonly noted among young adults with COVID-19. If they don’t have any underlying medical conditions, they are more likely to ride out the infection at home.

What is the first step to be taken when you notice the symptoms of COVID-19?

Stop exposing other individuals, if you believe you may have COVID-19. Please call your doctor’s office to discuss your symptoms. The LA County website will guide you through the testing process. Currently, wait times for results are longer. While awaiting test results, please quarantine yourself, drink enough water, and get adequate rest. If the test confirms positive infection, please quarantine for 10 days from the onset of symptoms and for 72 hours after fever subsides (whichever is longer). If the test does not confirm COVID-19 and you and your doctor feel that the symptoms are consistent with COVID-19 infection, please quarantine for 10 days from the onset of symptoms. This will reduce the risk of spreading the infection to your family, friends, or coworkers.

In case of symptoms, should the patient visit the Emergency Department (ED)?

Please visit the nearest ED for unremitting cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, unremitting fever, nausea, and vomiting. All others should seek care by calling their physician and following their guidance.

How can young individuals stay safe from COVID-19?

  • Practice social distancing (maintain at least six feet separation between yourself and others), wear a face mask properly, and wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol content).
  • Cover your cough and sneeze and don’t touch your face, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay away from crowds and avoid gathering with people other than your household members. If you do visit a crowded place, follow all universal precautions.
  • Work from home, if possible. If you do travel to work and use public transportation, please follow all the necessary safety precautions to protect yourself.
  • If you or coworker have any symptoms for COVID-19, please quarantine until it is safe to return to work.
  • If you notice others wearing their mask inappropriately or standing too close, please educate them and politely ask them to wear a mask in order to reduce the risk.
  • If you’re using a cloth face covering, please make sure to hand wash it after each use.

We can prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections by following the recommended safety measures and staying home as much as possible.
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