It appears that the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19, a respiratory illness with symptoms similar to the seasonal flu, is not so democratic: it poses a higher risk to some people than others, including those over 50, and it is more deadly in people who already have health problems.
“Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected”, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Epidemiologists are putting together the puzzle of how the virus works, including analyzing how it affects people based on age and gender, among other characteristics, to focus on developing treatments, and in the not-too-distant future, a vaccine.
According to China’s Center for Disease Control, 87% of cases there were diagnosed in people between 30 and 79 years of age. This percentage came from an analysis of the first 72,000 cases concentrated mostly in the region of Wuhan, China.
People between 20 and 29 years of age accounted for 8.1% of cases, while 1.2% were adolescents, and 0.9% were under the age of 9.
This same study showed that the mortality rate was 14.5% in people over the age of 80 and 1.3% for people at the age of 50.
The rate decreases even more for younger people: 0.4% at the age of 40, and 0.2% for those between 10 and 39 years old.
The WHO reports that since mid-January, no child in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, has been infected.
Age and preexisting respiratory diseases may be factors that cause a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19, which can be fatal.
In the United States, the outbreak at the Kirkland Life Care Center nursing home in the state of Washington reflects this same trend: the older you are, the greater your risk.
Researchers in the United States analyzed the occurrences of the virus by gender and observed that more men than women were affected. They attribute this to the fact that men travel more and may have more social contact, rather than to biological factors.
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