A second person in their 30s this week has died in Victoria from COVID-19, flagging a “disturbing” trend that hast emergency doctors worried.
On Saturday Premier Daniel Andrews announced that a man in his 30s had died from the virus, the second in the young age bracket for the week.
Head of the emergency department at Royal Melbourne Hospital Mark Putland said there was a noticeable an increase in younger patients presenting with the virus.
“Certainly, we are seeing an increase of young people with it, quite disturbingly,” Dr Putland told The New Daily.
“The outbreak in Victoria lately has been concentrated in the elderly in nursing homes, that gives people a false notion that it only affects elderly people, but that’s where it just happens to have caught on.
“We’re seeing 50- to 30-year-olds that are sick. One of the tricky things is people see that the death rate in 20-year-olds is low and you think it’ll be OK, but that doesn’t show you the rate of severe illness.”
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There are currently 20 Victorians under the age of 30 in hospital with coronavirus, three are in intensive care. These include two people between 20 and 29 and a child under 10.
On Thursday, the World Health Organisation emergencies chief, Michael Ryan, pleaded with young people to act responsibly after the number of infections in their demographic jumped in several countries.
“Younger people also need to take on board that they have a responsibility,” he said.
“Ask yourself the question: Do I really need to go to that party?”
Although under-30s are less likely to die from the disease, there are growing concerns about long-term health impacts as the proportion of those infected aged 15 to 24 has risen tripled in about five months, according to WHO data.
In New South Wales, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state was on a “knife-edge” this week and asked young people to curtail their socialising.
“We’re not saying don’t socialise or don’t go out at all, but we are saying please limit your behaviour just in the next few weeks,” Ms Berejiklian said on Thursday.
Dr Putland warned that even if you’re young, recovering from COVID-19 could take months.
“It’s an awful thing to have happen to you in your 20s. You’re stuck in ICU, no real sense of day and night, and struggling to breathe for weeks. And that’s a realistic proposition for this disease,” he told The New Daily.
“With all your fitness and strength gone for months afterwards, they might survive. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t ruined their life for a while.”
Importantly, we don’t know how COVID-19 affects patients after they’ve recovered, he said.
“We only know what it is like a few months down the track because that’s all we’ve seen.
“We know it affects people’s heart and blood vessels in interesting ways. We’ve seen strokes and heart attacks that look to be a consequence, but we don’t know the stuff down the track.”
Noting that everyone has to abide by stage 4 restrictions, Dr Putland said it was important for Victorians to remember that anti-COVID measures are working.
“We’re turning it around, the numbers are slowing. We’re going to hold it off. People really mustn’t give up. We’re doing a really good job with this.”