Young, Healthy Aussies Have Huge Role To Play In Stopping Spread Of Coronavirus

Healthy young people have a social responsibility to do their part not to spread coronavirus to the vulnerable and elderly, experts have warned, adding that habit changes are necessary to stop the infectious disease.

While young people are less likely to suffer severe symptoms of coronavirus, they are more likely to be carriers of the rapidly spreading virus, a global biosecurity expert has warned.

Professor Raina MacIntyre told 10 daily that research from South Korea and Japan, which is based on testing everyone at risk of coronavirus, indicates young people are "driving the epidemic".

"We know from data on social contact patterns that respiratory pathogens will transmit the most intensely between young people because they have the highest general contact rates with other people in society," she said.



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"Infected young people will be less likely to have symptoms or may have only mild symptoms, so [they] could be a silent reservoir for transmission, and will not be detected if we test only symptomatic people."

She said this means young, healthy people should be wary of infecting the elderly, people with disabilities, or those who have compromised health who may suffer worse outcomes if they were to test positive for coronavirus.

"We should mentally prepare to change the way we live and work so that we reduce the risk to those who are most vulnerable because of age or chronic illness," MacIntyre said.

However, Epidemiologist Professor Marylouise McLaws said while the virus "knows no barriers", it's still too early to tell whether young people carry a greater risk of infecting others.

"In China, as well as other countries, cases of children 19 and younger represent less than the proportion in the total community," McLaws said.

"Mild cases may be the reason. We don't know yet as it's still too early to examine the data across countries."

Australia's death toll is now at five, with all fatalities having occurred in elderly people.

The most at risk to the virus are those aged over 60, Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer said.

"We are finding particularly in the much older age groups - 80 and above - that the death rate is actually quite high," Paul Kelly said.



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"Vulnerable people in general, including the disabled [and those in] aged care, that's where a lot of the older people in Australia are most at risk of the serious end of this disease."

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged elderly Australians on Monday to remain vigilant and keep contact to a minimum but added that they "do not need to cut themselves off" from the nation.

"The medical advice is that there should be no shaking of hands. Where we can do it, 1.5-meters is the recommended social distancing should be practicing."

The federal government has advised all social gatherings to be fewer than 500 people and for all international arrivals to the country to self-isolate for 14 days.

Globally, young people have been slammed for crowding bars, restaurants and gathering in large numbers despite health warnings not to do so.

U.S. politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pleaded for young people in New York City to eat meals at home as the country grappled with surging cases of coronavirus.

NYC also announced restaurants, movie theatres and concert halls would be shut down to combat the virus.

"To everyone in NYC but ESPECIALLY healthy people & people under 40 ... PLEASE stop crowding bars, restaurants, and public spaces right now," Cortez wrote on Twitter.

"Eat your meals at home. If you are healthy, you could be spreading COVID."

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also criticised young Italians for gathering at night during the health crisis.

"This nightlife ... we can't allow this anymore. Our habits must change, must change now, we must all give up something for the good of Italy," he said.



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Given the noise around coronavirus it can be hard to distinguish what advice to take, especially if you're experiencing symptoms, are returning from abroad or have had contact with someone who has the disease.

However, Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said on Sunday, while the situation is evolving, Australians should not avoid going to the gym, cinema or taking public transport.

NSW Health said people can prevent coronavirus by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, covering their nose and mouth with their elbow while coughing or sneezing, and avoiding contact with those with cold or flu-like symptoms.

The current health advice for Australians is people should only be tested if they have returned from overseas and show symptoms, or if they show symptoms after they've come into contact with someone who's been diagnosed with COVID-19.

10 daily has contacted The Department of Health and NSW Health for comment.

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