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The coronavirus outbreak is just the latest life-changing disruption for young adults, who are now learning that they may be more vulnerable to the disease than originally expected, USC experts announced recently.

“Fast-tracked journal articles published within the last week or so report on similarities and differences among pediatric and adult patients with COVID-19 infection. Most disturbing are the increasing numbers of severe illness and fatalities in the 20- to 44-year-old segment in the U.S.,” said Irving Steinberg, associate professor of clinical pharmacy and pediatrics at the USC School of Pharmacy and the Keck School of Medicine.

Steinberg, who is also an expert in infectious diseases, said the casual attitude of many young people to the global pandemic is at odds with what researchers see.

Early reports emphasized the danger of the coronavirus to at-risk populations such as pregnant women, older individuals and those with underlying health conditions. However, one in five people hospitalized with the infection are 20- to 44-year-olds, according to recent analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Of those hospitalized, nearly 12 percent were admitted to intensive care units, according to the CDC.

“Young adults are not immune to coronavirus,” Steinberg said.