Young Brazilians die of Covid in alarming new turn

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Young Brazilians die of Covid in alarming new turn


Photographe: Dado Galdieri / Bloomberg

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Staggering under his Worst time of the pandemic, with daily records of cases and deaths, Brazil faces a disheartening development: an increasing number of deaths among young people.

So far this month, according to the government data, approximately 2,030 Brazilians aged 30 to 39 have died from Covid, more than double the number recorded in January. Among those in their forties, there were 4,150 deaths in March, up from 1,823 in January, and for those 20 to 29 years, the number of deaths rose to 505 from 242.

“Before, the risk factor for dying from Covid-19 was being older, having some comorbidity,” said Domingos Alves, a professor of medicine who is part of the national watchdog group. “Now the risk is to be Brazilian.”

Fiocruz, a non-profit healthcare organization, issued a Friday report showing the same trend with slightly different numbers.

He said cases among those aged 30 to 59 had jumped from the start of the year through mid-March at a rate nearly double the national average of 316%. These age groups have seen deaths increase by at least 317%, compared to 223% for Brazil as a whole.

In Sao Paulo, the richest and most populous state in the country, the rise is particularly large in private hospitals, Secretary of State for Health Jean Gorinchteyn said in an interview. Those 60 and over continue to dominate hospital admissions, but the share of those under 50 has risen to 15% from 10% last year.

In the state capital, more and more people between the ages of 20 and 54 are infected, the city’s health secretary, Edson Aparecido, told GloboNews TV on Friday. Younger patients wait longer for treatment and are sicker when they arrive.

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The explanation for the rising infection rate among young people – in a country that is largely young – remains unclear although authorities and medical experts suggest several possibilities. First, throughout 2020, local and regional restrictions hampered socialization. This has changed with the holidays, the new year and the release of locks.

Second, a variant first spotted in the Amazon city of Manaus is probably partly to blame, according to Jaques Sztajnbok, who helps manage the intensive care unit at Emílio Ribas Hospital, one of Brazil’s main facilities for infectious diseases. Most patients get sick with this variant or the UK variant, which is also more contagious. A study carried out in Sao Paulo found one of the two variants in 71% of cases.

On March 19, health workers hold a meeting while treating patients in a Covid-19 intensive care unit at a field hospital in the Heliopolis favela in Sao Paulo.

Photographer: Jonne Roriz / Bloomberg

Third, vaccines are limited in Brazil and there is no time limit to vaccinate young people.

Fernando Brum, director of Santa Casa de Sorocaba Hospital, said that mutating the virus into a much more contagious version with a viral load that makes people sick faster and more aggressively has caused young people to go from mostly asymptomatic cases to be. severely affected.

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Brum, whose hospital is a two-hour drive from Sao Paulo, says the ICUs are also filled with 30 years. He estimates that the age of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 has decreased by 50% compared to 2020.

“The intensive care unit is constantly and uninterruptedly occupied,” he said. Patients in their 30s make up at least half of those beds, and their average time spent in hospital has tripled from last year. He fell recently for a sinister reason: patients die faster.

Sztajnbok said it was not unusual now to see people under the age of 40 or even in their 20s without any risk factors requiring intubation and life support. Before, he says, patients were mostly over 65. “The first time this happened we were shocked,” he said. “We were also shocked the second time around. Now we are not.

Longer hospital stays are straining the Brazilian health system, struggling after decades of underinvestment. ICU capacity rates were at or above 80% in 25 states, according to the new Fiocruz report, while 17 states had levels above 90%.

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A worker wearing protective gear digs a grave at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo on March 24.
Photographer: Victor Moriyama / Bloomberg

In a March 23 report, Fiocruz also highlighted a “disproportionate increase in mortality in the country”, which rose from 2% to 3.1% at the end of last year. The jump signals that patients could die due to a lack of assistance or failures in healthcare, he said.

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