Who is most at risk for dying from the virus?

  • The elderly
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Men

The age group with the highest risk of contracting coronavirus is also the age group that is most at risk of dying from it. Those who are 65 years or older are at high risk for being infected, and likewise, those who have died from the disease in the U.S. range in age from their 50s to 90s—and it’s particularly deadly for those who are older than 80. This range of ages may change as scientists gather more data and because the specific ages of many patients have not yet been disclosed by health officials. 

Why are older people the most at risk? 

Our immune systems get weaker as we age, a change called “immunosenescence,” according to Dr. Mark Mulligan, the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology at NYU. This means that our bodies gradually lose the ability to mount a response to an infection as effectively as it did when we were younger.

Men seem especially prone

Based on available information from China and Italy, health officials have begun to notice that men are more likely to die from the virus than women. In Italy alone, men make up more than 70% of deadly cases—meaning 7 out of every 10 people who have died from COVID-19 in Italy are men. Men also seem more likely to contract the disease in the first place. 

Johns Hopkins scientist Sabra Klein, who studies sex differences in viral infections, believes the discrepancy could be a combination of biological and behavioral. Not only do women “have more robust immune systems,” she said, but men are also more prone to behavior such as smoking and are less likely to wash their hands.

Fatalities of those infected

A study conducted by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 49% of “critical” cases of coronavirus (which make up 4.7% total of those infected) resulted in death. However, the study recorded no fatalities from those with mild or even severe cases of the virus.
Sources: CDC, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, BuzzFeed

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