Younger Brazilians are dying of Covid in an alarming new change

A protester places a rose on a blanket during a protest against the government's pandemic response in front of the Raúl Gazzola hospital in Rio de Janeiro on March 24.

Photographer: Dado Galdieri / Bloomberg

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Reeling under his In the worst period of the pandemic, with daily records of cases and deaths, Brazil faces an overwhelming development: a growing number of deaths among young people.

So far this month, according to the government data, about 2,030 Brazilians Aged 30 to 39 have died from Covid, more than double the number recorded in January. Among those in their 40s, there have been 4,150 deaths in March, up from 1,823 in January, and between the ages of 20 and 29, deaths increased from 242 to 505.

“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 monitoring group. “Now, the risk is to be Brazilian.”

Fiocruz, a nonprofit health organization, issued a Friday’s report showing the same trend with slightly different numbers.

Said cases among those Aged 30 to 59 had risen from the beginning of the year to mid-March at a rate almost double the national average of 316%. In those age groups, deaths increased by at least 317%, compared to 223% for Brazil as a whole.

In Sao Paulo, the country’s richest and most populous state, the increase is especially prominent in private hospitals, state Health Secretary Jean Gorinchteyn said in an interview. Those 60 and older 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 20 and 54 years old are infected, the city’s health secretary, Edson Aparecido, he told GloboNews TV on Friday. Younger patients wait longer to seek medical attention 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 overwhelmingly young, remains unclear, although officials and medical experts suggest several possibilities. First, throughout 2020, local and regional restrictions hampered socialization. That changed with the holidays, the new year, and the loosening of confinements.

Second, a variant detected for the first time in the Amazonian city of Manaus is likely partly to blame, according to Jaques Sztajnbok, who helps run the ICU at the Emílio Ribas hospital, one of Brazil’s leading facilities for infectious diseases. Patients get heavily ill with that variant or with the UK variant, which is also more contagious. A study carried out in Sao Paulo found one of the two variants in 71% of the cases.

A Covid-19 field hospital in Sao Paulo's largest favela as ICU beds reach capacity

Health workers hold a meeting while treating patients inside a Covid-19 ICU at a field hospital in Sao Paulo’s Heliopolis favela on March 19.

Photographer: Jonne Roriz / Bloomberg

Third, vaccines are limited in Brazil and there is no deadline for inoculation of the offspring.

Fernando Brum, director of the Santa Casa de Sorocaba hospital, said that the mutation of the virus to a much more contagious version with a viral load that sickens people in a faster and more aggressive way has caused young people to go from mostly asymptomatic cases to be seriously affected.

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

“The intensive care unit is constantly and uninterruptedly busy,” he said. 30-year-old patients occupy at least half of those beds, and the average time they spend in the hospital has tripled from last year. It’s been down recently for a terrible reason: patients die more quickly.

Sztajnbok said it is not unusual now to see people under 40 or even 20 without risk factors requiring intubation and life support. Before, he said, most patients were over 65. “The first time that happened, we were surprised,” he said. “We were also surprised the second time. Now we are not. “

The longest hospital stays are putting pressure on Brazil’s healthcare system, struggling after decades of underinvestment. UCI capacity rates were at 80% or higher in 25 states, according to the new Fiocruz report, while 17 states had levels higher than 90%.

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A worker in 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 to 3.1% from 2% at the end of last year. The jump indicates that patients could be dying due to lack of care or due to failures in medical care, he said.


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