Source : Forbes
As of this writing, the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has spread to 28 countries, with over 76,000 infected. These numbers will only continue to grow, as the threat of a global pandemic is now upon us.
And while anybody, anywhere, on land or at sea, can contract this infection, the degree of symptoms and risk of mortality varies widely based on several demographic factors:
- Older individuals fare more poorly: Of the 1,408 cases of COVID-19 in patients over age 80, there have been 208 deaths, for a case fatality rate (number of deaths per number of cases) of almost 15%. By contrast, there have been no deaths in the 416 cases in children ages 0-9 years, and one death among the 549 cases of children and adolescents ages 10-19 years.
- Those with other chronic illnesses do worse: There have been approximately 5,000 cases where individuals have reported a known co-morbid medical condition, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, or cancer. The average mortality rate in these groups is in the 5-10% range, whereas of the 15,000 individuals who reported no other medical conditions, the mortality rate to date has been less than 1%.
- You’re better off getting it this month than last month. Those who became ill before January 10, 2020 had an up to 15% mortality, whereas those who became ill after February 1, 2020 have had less than 1% mortality. This is likely due to extremely heightened awareness of potential for infection, with resultant earlier recognition and earlier interventions.
- Females fare better than males. Much better. According to a New York Timespiece this week, despite the fact that men and women have been roughly equally infected (51.4% infected are males), the death rates differ substantially: 2.8% death rate in males, and 1.7% death rate in females.
This was found to be the case across all age groups. Looking back on data from SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), which were both also pathogenic coronaviruses, males had higher mortality rates than females. Mice experiments where mice were infected with SARS and MERS demonstrated that male mice were more susceptible to infection than female mice, and that removing ovaries or blocking estrogen in female mice made them more susceptible to infection and infection-related mortality. One concept which continues to be investigated in this current outbreak is the protective nature of estrogen in such infections. In addition to estrogen, the presence of two X-chromosomes, which carry genes for immunity, may play a part in the biologic difference between females (who carry two X-chromosomes) and males (who carry one X-chromosome) when it comes to immunologic response to infections.