"Patients are younger. We have more 40-50 y.o. patients that during the previous two seasons". This is the assessment made by Foch private hospital ICU head Charles Cerf this Wednesday March 24, 2021 in Libération. Until then, sole the oldest French were the hardest-hit by the epidemic, with a death rate and a complication rate much higher. Yet, since January 2021, intensive care units - especially in Île-de-France - have been reporting always younger patients admitted. "In our 14 ICU beds, about a third is under 55 years old", the doctor says.
Furthermore, the shapr increase in admissions for the past eight days has the health authorities highly concerned. "Doctors have been reporting always more young sick without comorbidities admitted in ICU", ARS director Aurélien Rousseau warns this Tuesday on Twitter. Same concerns for Versailles hospital center ICU head doctor Jean-Pierre Bedos interviewed by Libération. "Our sick are a bit younger. They are 33, 42, 45 years old. We've never seen so in ICU during the first waves. The most worrying is that some of them develop severe diseases while they have no comorbidities, maybe a part a bit of high-blood pressure", the doctor explains.
In detail of the Covid-19 epidemic, especially in Île-de-France, the hardest-hit region, this change of pattern is confirmed. For the past two months and a half, the share of 80+ drops by 14 points, moving from half to more or less a third of clinical cases. Yet, the share of Covid patients hospitalized in ICU under 60 years old skyrockets, representing about a fourth (against 16% two months ago). All the more so if sick are mostly overweight, show comorbidities, hypertension, and diabetes grow rarer.
Why are there always more young people in ICU?
But why are there more young people in ICU? Three main leads are contemplated. On one hand, the vaccination has been having its first positive impacts within nursing homes. As the oldest French have been given access to vaccine, it leads to transition. From now on, they are more protected against the virus. It explains why the share of young is higher, but not necessarily the increase in ICU hospitalizations.
The second cause might be caused by slackening barrier recommendations: the virus spreads more in people between 20 and 39 years of age, in comparison with older people. The third cause attributes the rise to the spread of variants. The UK variant is now found in over half of covid cases, and is also more transmissible than the historic strain. Even though young people are no longer complying with health guidelines as well as they used to, this variant increases the spread of the epidemic. One last hypothesis related to variants has been raised by epidemiologist Martin Blachier on LCI. He says some people think variants lead to more severe disease than the historic strain.