Theme Article, “Youth and Health Emergencies”.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Yorlin Suarez is a sixth-year medical student, biochemistry teacher, and research assistant in Health Sciences in the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD). She enjoys volunteering for social and politics entities, also developing advocacy for students and youth rights in her university, and community. She is an active member of the Standing Committee of Research Exchanges (SCORE) of the Organización Dominicana de Estudiantes de Medicina (ODEM). Her email is: [email protected].
Massiel Méndez Jorge is a sixth-year medical student, physiology teacher, and research assistant at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) in Dominican Republic. She is the current Local Officer of the Standing Committee on Research Exchange (SCORE) of the Organización Dominicana de Estudiantes de Medicina (ODEM). She is also a passionate crafts and cats lover. Her email is [email protected].
Youth and COVID-19, are we undervaluing the risk?
Authors: Yorlin Suárez, Massiel Méndez
“To be young and not a revolutionary is even a biological contradiction.
– Salvador Allende.
The coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) remains a global health threat with over 8 million confirmed cases and 465,740 confirmed deaths according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) situation report on June 22, 2020 ¹. So far, research has shown that older people, and people of all ages with pre-existing medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer) appear to develop serious illness more frequently than others. Even though healthy young and middle-aged individuals are not part of this category, they are still at risk of fatal outcomes (2).
This article aims to raise awareness among youth that younger individuals are not fully immune to this virus or its severity. COVID-19 related myocarditis and large vessel stroke have been reported with novel presenting features among young adults (3,4), dispelling the misconception that youth are at low risk of COVID-19. This finding was described with the WHO’s list of rumors that could grant false assurances. One cross-sectional study of 247 participants, which was conducted in Ethiopia, showed that 72% knew that older people who have chronic illnesses are at high risk of developing a severe form of COVID-19, but only 15 (6%) believed that children and young adults had to adhere to preventive measures (5).
Youth is one of the most complex stages of human life, where even biology suggests a period full of energy and passion with a feeling of limitless opportunities. In the context of the current public health crisis, this could lead to high risk behaviors that increase virus transmission.
Young adults have demonstrated that they are not too afraid of the pandemic. They are playing protagonist roles during the holding of protests against social distancing measures, stay-at-home orders, and widespread use of face masks. Several early protests that were organized on Facebook® have spread across cities in the United States, Lebanon, Iraq, India, and France (6).
COVID-19 is a reality that has changed the world that we have known until now, as the WHO’s Director of Health Emergencies stated: “The new coronavirus, causing the COVID-19, can become an endemic virus and therefore never go away” (7). The Dominican Republic has assumed this fact, authorizing a gradual reopening of the economy while adopting the term “COVID-ianity” as a reference of our daily life coexisting with the virus. However, it is necessary for the global population to strictly follow established guidelines and adopt new habits so that we can achieve optimal de-escalation processes.
Youth constitutes a crucial piece of COVID-19 prevention by adhering to social distancing measures. As medical students, it is our duty to wear and promote proper usage of face masks and eye protection, even among our friends and relatives circle. This knowledge corresponds to a true act of social responsibility, which will allow us to share our stories with future generations about our role as “Quarantine Heroes” from the comfort of home.
- World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Situation Report (No. 154). Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200622-covid-19-sitrep-154.pdf?sfvrsn=d0249d8d_2
- World Health Organization. (2020). Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19). Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
- Kim, I.-C., Kim, J. Y., Kim, H. A., & Han, S. (2020). COVID-19-related myocarditis in a 21-year-old female patient. European Heart Journal, 41(19), 1859–1859. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa288
- Oxley T. J., Mocco J., Majidi S., Kellner C.P., Shoirah H., Singh I. P., De Leacy R.A., … Fifi J.T. (2020). Large-Vessel Stroke as a Presenting Feature of Covid-19 in the Young. The New England Journal of Medicine, 382, e60. doi:10.1056/NEJMc2009787
- Kebede, Y., Yitayih, Y., Birhanu, Z., Mekonen, S., & Ambelu, A. (2020). Knowledge, perceptions and preventive practices towards COVID-19 early in the outbreak among Jimma university medical center visitors, Southwest Ethiopia. PLOS ONE, 15(5), e0233744. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0233744
- Dyer, O. (2020). Covid-19: Trump stokes protests against social distancing measures. BMJ, 369. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1596
World Health Organization. (2020). COVID-19 Virtual Press conference. Geneva, Switzerland, May 13, 2020: WHO.
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