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Who is susceptible to be affected by COVID-19?

Doctor holding test tube for Coronavirus
Doctor holding test tube for Coronavirus © Olga Nikiforova | Dreamstime.com

The deadly new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is currently showcasing a global outbreak of COVID-19 in over 30 countries around the world.

The latest figures show about 109,837 people infected by COVID-19 since its first outbreak in China, reported at the end of December 2019. There are 3,805 deaths and 60,963 people recovered from COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways, caused by the coronavirus.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Scientists found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating among animals which have not yet infected humans.

Common signs of such viral infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

There is no evidence that children are more susceptible. In fact, most confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported from China have occurred in adults. Nevertheless, several children have been reported to be infected, including very young ones.

Drawing from the limited information published about the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreaks, children weren’t the primary fraction of population affected.

Children should still engage in usual preventive actions to avoid infection, including cleaning hands often, using soap or alcohol-based hand sanitiser, avoiding people who are sick, and staying up to date on vaccinations, including influenza vaccine.

Older people and those with severe/chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness. Early data suggest older people are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19 illness.

This may be because as people age, their immune systems change, making it harder for their body to fight off diseases and infection. Likewise, many older adults are also more likely to have underlying health conditions that make it harder to cope with and recover from the illness.

There is no information from published scientific reports about susceptibility of pregnant women to COVID-19. Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19.

We need to play our role in controlling the spread of COVID-19 disease by practising good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene regardless of whether you are more or less susceptible to be affected by the disease.

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