The United Kingdom is just starting to come to terms with the spread of the coronavirus. Several European countries have been roiled by the virus in recent weeks and months, including Italy, France, and Germany. The U.K.’s National Health System is rapidly gearing up for a surge in confirmed cases.
Over the course of this pandemic, we’ve heard repeatedly that senior citizens and those with underlying health conditions tend to be most susceptible to the virus, but a recent diagnosis in the U.K. is putting that theory to the test.
Areema Nasreen, a young nurse at Walsall Manor Hospital in the West Midlands, is currently in critical condition as she struggles to recover from COVID-19. Learn more about her story and what it says about the growing number of cases in the U.K.
Checking in on Areema Nasreen
Just 36-years-old, Areema Nasreen was never supposed to be in intensive care. She’s currently on a ventilator at the same hospital where she’s worked for 16 years. Nasreen was perfectly fit and healthy before she started coming down with flu-like symptoms. She started coughing and getting body aches around ten days prior to testing positive for the virus on Friday, March 20th.
Nasreen had no underlying health conditions at the time of infection, which is why her case is getting so much attention. Her sister Kazeema Nasreen, who works as a healthcare assistant at the same hospital, recently told reporters, “I want everyone to know how dangerous this is. My sister is only 36 and is normally fit and healthy.”
According to doctors at the facility, Nasreen’s condition deteriorated within the span of just 24 hours. Her husband and three children cannot currently visit her in the hospital, so they are waiting anxiously for her to come home.
A Word of Caution for Young People
If someone like Nasreen can end up in critical condition, younger, healthier people may not be as immune to the virus as we once thought. While the virus tends to pose a greater risk to older individuals and those with underlying health conditions, there have been numerous hospitalizations among younger generations.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recently sent a message to young people all over the world: “ You are not invincible, this virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”
Here in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters over the weekend that he is “looking very closely” at a recent string of severe cases of COVID-19 among young people. Recent data from the CDC shows that about 40% of those who were hospitalized for the virus as of March 16 were ages 20 to 54.
While healthcare officials have yet to determine why some young people are more affected by the virus than others, the message remains clear: Young people need to take this pandemic seriously.
Why the Virus Continues to Spread Throughout the Midlands
Nasreen’s diagnosis also points to a troubling phenomenon among religious communities. According to U.K. health officials, the virus seems to be spreading faster among the West Midlands than anywhere else in the country, except for London. The region accounts for around 16% of the country’s death toll thus far.
The majority of local cases have been linked back to an unnamed church in the community. A member of the congregation infected with the virus must have spread it to dozens of other individuals without realizing it.
Many religious communities and churches are struggling to decide whether they should continue with services as usual, but this recent outbreak shows that in-person religious services may no longer be an option across much of the world. Faith leaders will have to look for other ways to bring their congregations together to prevent the spread of the infection.
Our heart goes out to Nasreen and her family as they struggle with this ongoing epidemic. We are hoping for the best for healthcare providers around the world that have tested positive for the coronavirus. Remind young people they can be just as susceptible to the virus as older generations. When in doubt, stay home and encourage others to do the same.