What you need to know:
- Majority of the young are unbothered and unafraid of the pandemic so they bend rules by moving social events to their houses, inside cars, parks, malls and other open spaces.
- As cases continue to rise aggressively in the country, there are more recognised infections and even deaths among younger people, challenging the initial belief that they stood a better chance of beating Covid-19.
- While young people may feel invincible because they are not getting severe symptoms, they are driving the surge of infections, which experts say is putting the vulnerable population at risk.
We cannot entirely blame young people for spikes in Covid-19 cases, an expert says.
Majority of the young are unbothered and unafraid of the pandemic so they bend rules by moving social events to their houses, inside cars, parks, malls and other open spaces.
Dr Jeanette Dawa, a medical epidemiologist, says the spread of the virus by this group may go beyond recklessness to lack of awareness and/or respect for the disease.
“Maybe they just do not understand the severity of the disease and the significance of their actions,” she argues.
Dr Dawa opines that there could be communication gaps on prevention measures especially when it comes to how the message is channelled to young people who make up the large group of asymptomatic cases.
“Even with HIV, people know they should wear a condom but they don’t because they do not perceive themselves as being at risk,” she says.
If the ministry’s situation reports on surveillance is anything to go by, Dr Dawa may be right.
The Health Ministry has identified risk communication as one of the key challenges the government is facing in containing the virus.
According to the daily situation reports, other challenges are laboratory testing and inadequate financial support to sub-national levels for operations.
These three issues continue to drag Kenya behind as the world fights a disease that has infected more that 18 million and killed at least 698,000.
In tracking Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2), early reports from China indicated that young people were more likely to have milder cases of the disease. But that view may be changing.
As cases continue to rise aggressively in the country, there are more recognised infections and even deaths among younger people, challenging the initial belief that they stood a better chance of beating Covid-19.
While young people may feel invincible because they are not getting severe symptoms, they are driving the surge of infections, which experts say is putting the vulnerable population at risk.
In June, the country recorded its first death of a young person, although the 33-year-old patient had an underlying condition (kidney problems) which likely worsened his outcome.
Since then, three more deaths in the younger age group have occurred, the major difference being that none of the patients had a pre-existing condition, causing jitters among health experts and scientists.
Acting Health Services Director-General Patrick Amoth warned that the number of deaths will significantly increase alongside the increase of positive cases recorded in the country.
“That is usually a cause for worry because it means they could be getting a more serious form of infection, which means we need to warn the young people that not everybody who gets Covid-19 survives. You could be that unlucky person who gets a more serious form and succumbs,” Dr Amoth warned.
Four months into the war against the pandemic, health officials are consistently imploring young people to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Local transmission continues to drive record daily outbreaks across the counties, with 38 out of the cumulative 369 deaths recorded among young people between 20 and 39 years old.
One of the 23 deaths recorded Saturday was of a 16-year-old patient, which prompted Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe to reiterate the warning to the youth about their reckless behaviour.
Coronavirus infections requiring hospitalisation are not only possible in younger adults but the rate of these cases is higher now that the virus is spreading across other countries.
Early data from China focused on older people, especially those living with major health problems, as those most likely to be seriously affected by Covid-19.
As information reached the US, it seemed the coronavirus was mostly a threat to the elderly and those with underlying health issues.
Data in a daily situation report from the Ministry of Health shows that younger adults are also getting Covid-19, with some requiring hospitalisation and even intensive care.
For example, the situation report shows, majority of the cases 9,865 (56 per cent) are in the age group of 20 and 39 years, with 4,010 (47 per cent) in the 20-29 group and 5,855 (65 per cent) in the 30-39 group.
Research now indicates that seemingly healthy people can spread the virus.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a recent systematic review estimated that the proportion of truly asymptomatic cases ranges from six to 41 per cent, with a pooled estimate of 16 per cent.
Though estimates vary, the WHO says models using data from Hong Kong, Singapore, and China suggest that 30 to 60 per cent of spreading occurs when people have no symptoms.
“You get infected and have no symptoms. Chances are you’re going to infect someone else, who will then infect someone else. Eventually, the virus could reach someone who’s vulnerable either because of their age or because they have a compromised immune system,” Dr Anthony Fauci, US’ top infectious disease expert, said in an interview with WebMD, an American online publisher.
By “allowing” yourself to get infected or not caring if you do get infected, you are propagating a pandemic, Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
Because it doesn’t end with you,” he said.
In Europe, Italy, and the US, young people have been found to not only be asymptomatic but also agile.
By moving around, they act as reservoirs of the virus.
Based on anecdotal data evidence within Kenya, Dr Dawa, who works at Washington State University’s Global Health Program, says the idea that young people could be the ones spreading the virus could be true and if the trend continues, data will support this.
“From our data, most of the cases are between 30 to 39 years. I do not know if the assumptions being made regarding young people are based on our own data or the trend witnessed internationally,” Dr Dawa said.