Younger Adults at Higher Risk for Hospitalization than Previously Thought, but with a Caveat

Now that we have community spread of the new Coronavirus, we’re beginning to get some U.S. specific surveillance data. Up until now, we’ve needed to rely on data from China, S. Korea and Italy.  The new US results are summarized in a CDC MMWR this week (MMWR stands for a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report).

Previous mortality data from S. Korea were primarily mortality data, so this is our first real view into what percentage of cases are serious enough to require hospitalization or intensive care.  The previous mortality data found that younger adults are at much lower risk for dying from the illness- but these new hospitalization data suggest that younger adults are at risk of serious enough symptoms to be hospitalized.

Among the 508 patients known to have been hospitalized in the US (12% of the cases), 20% were between 20–44 years old, 18% were 45–54, 17% were aged 55–64 years, 26% were aged 65–84 years, and 9% were over 85.  Overall, 31% of cases, 45% of hospitalizations, 53% of ICU admissions, and 80% of deaths were among adults aged ≥65 years.

So, in that young adult cohort you can see that 29% of the cases are among folks 20-44 years old and 20% of the hospitalizations were among that group. Slightly under-represented in terms of hospitalization percentage but not by much.

The CDC doesn’t have information about chronic medical conditions and or how many of these younger adults have medical conditions, which we know puts people at higher risk for severe disease, so this is a big limitation in the report.

Among the 121 patients admitted to an ICU so far, 7% of cases were ≥85 years, 46% were 65–84 years, 36% were 45–64 years, and 12% were 20–44 y/o.  Percentages of ICU admissions were lowest among adults aged 20–44 years (2%–4%) and highest among adults aged 75–84 years (11%–31%).

There have been 44 known deaths so far.  80% (35) of them were older than 65 and 20% (9) have been younger adults.

The CDC identifies several limitations in the data used for the report, and it’s also very early in the US epidemic- so as you think about these results take into consideration that these are preliminary data- but still useful in planning for the healthcare system response.

Here’s a link to the Full MMWR Article.