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WHO message to young people about coronavirus: ‘You’re not invincible’

Brady Sluder, right, coughs into his hand after explaining why he defied rules to attend Spring Break festivities in Miami, Fla., on March 18, 2020.
Brady Sluder, right, coughs into his hand after explaining why he defied rules to attend Spring Break festivities in Miami, Fla., on March 18, 2020. Via CBS News

World Health Organization officials warned young people Friday that although they’re less likely to die from the novel coronavirus, they are still at risk of severe illness.

“You’re not invincible,” said WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference on COVID-19.

“One of the things that we are learning is that although older people are the hardest-hit, younger people are not spared. Data from many countries clearly show that people under 50 make up a significant proportion of patients requiring hospitalization,” he said.

“This virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you.”

One recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 40 per cent of hospitalized patients were aged 20 to 54.

READ MORE: Close to 40% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the U.S. are aged 20 to 54

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Canada’s own data shows that 21 per cent of cases are in people aged 20-39, as of March 19, though the numbers from the Public Health Agency of Canada don’t mention how severe their illness was.

Miami spring breakers vow to keep partying amid pandemic
Miami spring breakers vow to keep partying amid pandemic

Dr. Alon Vaisman, an infectious disease expert in Toronto, cautioned that younger people can’t pass this virus off as a common cold or flu.

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“There are going to be individuals who, for sometimes clear reasons, sometimes unclear reasons, who are young, who will still have severe complications, related to disease,” he said in an interview Thursday night.

But it’s still more likely overall for a younger person to experience a mild form of COVID-19, he added.

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Tedros noted also that whether or not a young person experiences severe illness themselves, they still have a role to play in protecting others.

“The choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else,” he said.

— with files from Maryam Shah, Global News