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Why are the elderly more vulnerable to coronavirus?

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  5 March 2020 12:40 PM GMT

NEW DELHI: With novel coronavirus cases now spreading to over 70 countries and territories including India, doctors have warned that elderly people should be extra cautious due to their “compromised immunity” and higher chances of suffering from “co-morbidities” or other diseases which make them more susceptible to infection.

“Additionally, their lungs take more time in clearing up and there is not clear secretion from the lung. All these factors make them extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. Anyone above the age of 50 is at high risk,” Ravi Shekhar Jha, Senior Consultant and Head of the Department, Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Hospital Faridabad, told IANS.

An analysis of all cases diagnosed in China as of February 11, 86.6 percent were aged 30-79 years, the China Center for Disease Control reported last month.

Data from Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) showed that the mortality rate of COVID-19 patients aged 80 or older was 5.4 percent, compared with an average mortality rate of 0.6 percent.

“As we age, our immune system also depletes gradually and likely for this reason any elderly catching coronavirus is more vulnerable,” said Rajiv Dang, Senior Director & Head of the Department, Internal Medicine, Max Hospital Gurugram.

While an analysis of the reported cases shows children are far less affected compared to the elderly, the reasons are not very clear.

“With over 93,000 cases registered so far across the world, it has been observed that children are less vulnerable to coronavirus. As per the reports from China until last week, out of the 75,000 cases registered, hardly 100 cases or so were pediatric,” Dang said.

“This may also indicate that many a greater number of kids may have been affected, but being asymptomatic or not getting sick enough to seek medical treatment may be reasons for low numbers,” he said.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children should engage in usual preventive actions to avoid infection, including cleaning hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoiding people who are sick, and staying up to date on vaccinations, including influenza vaccine. Doctors also believe that the novel coronavirus has “equal potential to penetrate and spread”, irrespective of the gender, although various data show that more men are infected by the virus than women. (IANS)

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