Aug 18, 2020 - Health

WHO says young people are driving the spread of coronavirus

Students in Boulder, Colorado, on Aug. 18.

Students in Boulder, Colorado, on Aug. 18. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The World Health Organization warned at a news briefing on Tuesday that "people in their 20s, 30s and 40s" are increasingly the primary spreaders of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The words of caution come as schools and colleges across the United States weigh the risks of in-person classes, which could exacerbate the trend of young people transmitting the virus.

What they're saying: "The epidemic is changing," Takeshi Kasai, the WHO’s Western Pacific regional director, said. "Many are unaware they’re infected — with very mild symptoms or none at all. This can result in them unknowingly passing on the virus to others."

  • "This increases the risk of spillovers to the most vulnerable: the elderly, the sick, people in long-term care, people who live in densely populated urban areas and under-served rural areas. We must redouble efforts to stop the virus from moving into vulnerable communities."

The big picture: About half of the clusters in a study of outbreaks in Japan were traced back to people aged 20–39 at karaoke bars, offices and restaurants — and 41% of them did not have symptoms at the time.

Go deeper: More young people are getting — and spreading — the coronavirus

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