The novel coronavirus that originated at a market in Wuhan, China has infected more than 43,100 people in 28 countries. Along with Africa and South America—the continents where the virus has yet to be found—COVID-19, as it’s now officially known, has largely spared children worldwide, CNBC reports. But the undeniable thrust of the available data suggests that the virus is a greater concern the older you are. The World Health Organization says that the majority of those infected are over 40 years old.
Eighty percent of the people who’ve died in China were over the age of 60. Three-quarters of those had a preexisting condition that likely made them less prepared to fight the disease.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, put it bluntly: “Increasing age increases the risk for death.” She also said that being over 80 is the highest single risk factor for dying from the infection.
But while part of the reason for this pattern is the greater vulnerability of older people, it’s also likely that cases among kids are underreported. The more mild symptoms they’d display with stronger immune systems likely means that parents are less likely to suspect COVID-19 and seek medical attention for it.
The bottom line is that, as with any new and fast-moving infection, the numbers are likely playing catch-up to reality.
“That systematic data collection and that sampling of mild cases, as well as severe cases, is something that is really urgently required for us to get a clear handle on this,” Kerkhove said.
And it’s important to remember that, even if this discrepancy holds up with a more complete picture of the infection’s impact, kids aren’t 100 percent safe. A six-month-old in Singapore was confirmed to have the disease last week, and a Chinese baby was born with the virus on February 2.
So while they might be at less of a risk than adults, it’s still vital to take the recommended steps to keep your family safe, as you don’t want your kid to be the exception to the rule.