Thus far, coronavirus is confirmed to have infected over 43,000 people and killed more than 1,000, making it already more prolific than the 2003 SARS epidemic.
The vast majority of cases remain concentrated in China’s Hubei province.
But there is one group the virus is appearing to spare: children.
Of the more than 43,100 people it’s infected since Dec. 31, World Health Organization officials say the majority are over 40 years old and it’s hitting those with underlying health conditions and the elderly particularly hard.
“Increasing age increases the risk for death,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said Thursday at a news conference at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. “It appears even over 80 is the highest risk factor.”
Fortunately for many worried parents, there appear to be few confirmed cases of the virus among children so far. Officials caution that the virus is so new, there is still a lot that they don’t know about it and the data they are seeing today will likely look different a month from now.
About 80% of people who died from the virus in China were over the age of 60, and 75% had pre-existing conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, according to a recent report from China’s National Health Commission. A small study published Jan 30 in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet found that the average age of coronavirus patients was roughly 55 years old. The study looked at 99 patients at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, China, from Jan. 1 to Jan. 20.