These two groups of people may be more at risk for getting COVID-19

Health officials are racing to identify as many supportive interventions as possible in preparation for COVID-19’s destructive peak. .   

Recently, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told the press that next week is going to be “our Pearl Harbor moment, it’s going to be our 9/11 moment, it’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives.”

Vaccinology research begins with a clear understanding of the individuals who are most at risk for severe or critical forms of the disease. In the case of the fast-acting respiratory illness funding our current pandemic, those who disproportionately test positive for COVID-19 are associated with different physiological, behavioral and societal substrates than those who disproportionately develop fatal manifestations of COVID-19.

This disparity became apparent as testing kits were made available in more medical facilities. Physicians around the country noticed that women were becoming infected by SARS-Cov-2 at an alarming rate but older men were dying of the ensuing disease much more frequently. 

In a new statistics report of Ohio health systems, for instance, elderly men accounted for nearly 60% of the reported COVID-19 deaths even though they represent a minority of 42% of the population.

One in three Ohioan men 50 years of age or older have been hospitalized with severe COVID-19 symptoms, though women account for more than half of all confirmed cases and 56% of cases in patients under the age of 50.

In regards to cases in individuals over the age of 50, 3.9% of women have succumbed to the disease compared to the 5.6% of men with positive cases who did so.

“It’s the testing capabilities that are exemplifying that right now,” explained Marlene Martin, spokeswoman for Summit County Public Health in the report, “because those individuals have access to testing whereas the general public do not.”

“Even if they have mild symptoms, nurses and doctors are prioritized for testing as they more frequently come into contact with the virus and pose great risk of transmitting it if infected. How they care for the public — hands-on in hospitals — remains relatively the same in this age of social distancing.”

Broadly, men are roughly 1.3 times more likely to die as a result of COVID-19 complications compared to women. Of the 80,967 infected in China, 2.8% of male patients died from the illness while 1.7% of female patients did so.

Previously conducted research has suggested lifestyle factors and biological predispositions to influence these statistics in equal measure. It seems everything from routine handwashing to receiving physical exams more often make women better positioned to combat aggressive viral diseases.

Men are more likely to develop aggravating underlying conditions like hypertension and diabetes than women, in addition to being more likely to smoke into old age. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 12% of women smoke cigarettes while 16% of men currently do.

In some ways this imbalance was to be expected, as males are generally more vulnerable to acute viral infections.

Macrophages, which are immune system cells that enable the body to dispel viral material, begin developing when mammals are born. In women the macrophage population remains active without immune stimulation—this phenomenon has never been observed in males.

Moreover, X chromosomes are important to the regulation of gene expression in the immune system;men have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome, while women have two copies of the X.

In the early days of the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic, young people were contributing the most profoundly to new cases. This demographic tended to continue to travel in clusters against the recommendation of state officials.

Since younger carriers typically evidence mild symptoms and sometimes none at all they were less likely to take necessary precautions to protect those around them.

Carriers shed the most viral debris in the early stages of infection, while symptoms or mild or before they’re even present.

Ultimately, the speed at which this SARS pathogen spreads within a community prevents meaningful deduction. On a nearly daily basis, supposed truths are debilitated by a burgeoning list of outliers.

“Today, we only know a few genetic or lifestyle factors that tell us why some cases are mild and others are deadly,” explained Dr. Summer Johnson McGee, dean at the School of Health Science at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, in the Beacon Journal. “It will likely be a year or more before we understand the way in which our genetics and our behaviors protected us or exposed us to greater risk with COVID-19. Other than social distancing behavior, of course. We know that works.”