Despite US president Donald Trump claiming his son Barron's coronavirus infection was "gone" after "15 minutes", a new study says the virus has likely become the leading cause of death among young people in some regions of the United States.
For people aged between 25 and 44 living in one of 11 states with high infection rates - such as New York, Arkansas and Arizona - the chance of dying from Covid-19 is greater than any other risk, the researchers found.
In these states, 2,450 young adults died of coronavirus between March and July, slightly more than those killed in 2018 (the latest figure available) by accidental drug overdose, previously the leading cause of death in this age group.
"In these regions, Covid-19 mortality also resembles that of the HIV/Aids epidemic at its apex in the United States," said the team led by Dr Jeremy Samuel Faust of the Harvard Medical School in a non-peer-reviewed paper posted on medrxiv.org on Sunday.
Faust and his colleagues examined the data released by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found that in 2020 the number of deaths from all causes among young people to the end of July this year was a quarter higher than the same period last year.
The 14,155 excessive deaths had a peak rise in May, but only a small fraction were attributed directly to the coronavirus.
This implies "the mortality of Covid-19 has been substantially underdetected in the younger adult population," they said.
During his recently rallies in locations around the country, Trump has been using Barron's apparent rapid recovery from coronavirus as an example for why it's okay for schools to reopen.
"Young, strong immune systems, right?" Trump said during a rally in battleground state Wisconsin on Saturday.
"Go back to school. Let's go back to school. No, it's true. We tested positive and then 15 minutes later I said, 'How's he doing, doc? He's fine,"' Trump said during that speech.
A Shanghai-based life scientist studying the Sars-CoV-2 virus said the study deepened her worry about young people in the US.
"It is immoral and irresponsible to let the young Americans get infected to achieve herd immunity," she said.
A study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases this month reported that a 25-year-old man in Nevada had considerably worse symptoms after contracting the novel coronavirus for the second time.
The Shanghai-based researcher said that there could be more cases of reinfection, including a woman in her 30s in Wisconsin that the researcher knew personally.
"This could be the beginning of an explosion," said the researcher who asked not to be named because she does not have Chinese government approval to comment.
Trump has claimed - without evidence - that American doctors and hospitals were inflating data, including coronavirus-related deaths, to increase their own financial interest.
"If somebody's terminally ill with cancer and they have Covid, we report them. And you know doctors get more money and hospitals get more money, think of this incentive," said Trump during a rally in Illinois on Saturday.
Trump added he would "start looking into things" as "their reporting systems are really not doing it right".
Faust said that "physicians are angry right now" at Trump's allegations.
"But we are data-driven, and we want to offer solutions," he tweeted on Sunday.
"If we were cooking the books, why do all-cause excess deaths and official Covid-19 deaths so closely track over time," he said in a separate tweet.
Senior patients are several hundred times more likely to die from Covid-19 than younger populations, according to studies by researchers around the globe. The burden of the disease on younger generations thus received relatively less attention, according to Faust.
Dr Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and currently the top scientific adviser to the White House' pandemic response team, said there was no issue with young people getting infected as long as their elders stayed in protective care.
"It doesn't matter if younger, healthier people get infected ? They have nearly zero risk of a problem from this," he said in a television interview in July.
But a study by British researchers released on medrxiv.org this month found that young adult patients with no previous medical history could get long-lasting health problems after recovering from Covid-19. More than 70 per cent of young patients were impaired in one or more organs four months after the initial infection.
Enduring symptoms included fatigue, muscle pain, difficulty to breathe and headaches.
- South China Morning Post