While early reports from China showed the majority of deaths related to COVID-19 occurred in older patients and those with underlying health issues, that doesn’t mean younger people are immune from severe illness.

New data collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that roughly 12% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are known to need hospitalizations. About 1 in 5 of those hospitalizations were among people ages 20 to 44. More than a third of new cases reported with a known age were under 45.

Here are a few reasons why young people should take the virus seriously and how doing so can help others:

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There’s a lot we still don’t know about this virus

“As more and more cases happen, the virus change to pandemic continues to evolve,” says Daniel Varga, M.D., chief physician executive at Hackensack Meridian Health. While we know that older people and those with underlying medical conditions have a higher likelihood of developing more severe symptoms, it’s unclear why some cases are more severe than others in otherwise healthy young adults.

Young people can spread the virus without knowing they have it

Although it seems like the main driver of COVID-19 spread is through people exhibiting symptoms, some early research is suggesting that people may be able to spread the virus having very mild or no symptoms at all. Because of this, it is strongly urged that everyone, regardless of the presence of symptoms, take proper precautions to distance themselves from others.

“If you don’t do you part by staying home, you risk getting someone else sick who may be older or may have an underlying health condition that you don’t know about,” warns Dr. Varga.

Staying home helps health care workers and other front-line workers

On March 16, the White House announced a program called “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” which is a nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 through the implementation of social distancing at all levels of society.

Staying home helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 and helps our team members and all other essential workers stay safe, doing the jobs that are so crucial right now.