The new coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, late last year, is hitting elders the hardest. The virus has affected 25 countries so far. The U.S. has 14 reported cases of people with coronavirus — and at least half of them are 50 and older.
Six states — Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin — have patients with confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of the six patients with coronavirus in California, four are in their 50s, and both Illinois patients are in their 60s.
A total of 445 people have been tested for coronavirus in the U.S., and more investigations are pending, the CDC reported. (Johns Hopkins University has a real-time map of confirmed cases.) Of the 210 people who were tested for the virus in the U.S. in January, 46 were between 50 and 64 years old (or 22 percent) and another four who were older than 65 (2 percent), according to a new CDC report about coronavirus evaluations.
No patients in the U.S. have died, but many of those who have died in other countries were elders. Preliminary data from China’s National Health Commission show patients who died from coronavirus were in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and exhibited fever, coughing and shortness of breath, Bloomberg reported.
The symptoms of respiratory infection from the new coronavirus are very similar to the flu: nasal congestion, headache, cough, sore throat and a fever. In some patients, these symptoms can worsen into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain and shortness of breath.
If you’re an elder, immunocompromised, or if you have other comorbidities such as heart disease or liver disease, you are at higher risk of developing severe pneumonia and dying from the coronavirus. Elders have an increased susceptibility to coronaviruses because their immune response changes with age, and they are more likely to suffer from underlying conditions that hinder the body’s ability to cope with and recover from illness.
Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Stay aware of the latest information on the outbreak, available on the World Health Organization website and through your national and local public health authority. U.S. health officials recommend that people halt all nonessential travel to China and practice preventive hygiene measures, like thorough handwashing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub, and covering their mouth with their arm when they cough. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Maintain at least 3 feet of distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the coronavirus if the person coughing has the disease. Individuals should also avoid going to work when they’re sick and practice social isolation until at least 24 hours have passed after having a fever. If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have the coronavirus. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.