In recent reports, it has been said that the coronavirus takes a higher toll on men—with some experts warning that being male may be a risk factor for COVID-19, as much older age is.
In fact, a scientist who studies sex difference in viral infections at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Sabra Klein told the New York Times: “Being male is as much a risk factor for the coronavirus as being old. People need to be aware that there is this pattern. Just like being old means you’re at higher risk, so does being male. It’s a risk factor.”
She also said the vulnerability “could be biological or behavioural,” adding that women have more robust immune systems than men.
But a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is suggesting it may have more to do with biology than lifestyle. In particular, it may even have to do with genetics.
Male COVID-19 patients are more common than females, study finds. | Image source: iStock
Male COVID-19 patients get it worse
In CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published on Monday (6 April), it is found that there is a higher prevalence of COVID-19 in males across every pediatric age group—including newborns and infants.
Specifically, in the study of over 2,500 children—aged 0 to 18—with COVID-19, some 57 percent were male, suggesting that “biological factors” could make men more susceptible to the virus.
Based on the study, among the cases in children, the median age was 11 years, with nearly one-third of reported pediatric cases of cases involving teens between the ages of 15 and 17.
Among pediatric cases for which sex was known, 57 percent occurred in males—much higher in percentage compared to adult cases, in which 53 percent occurred in males.
The study also found that most of the children reported symptoms of cough or fever, only 5.7 percent were hospitalized.
“These data support previous findings that children with COVID-19 might not have reported fever or cough as often as do adults,” the report said.
Children who were hospitalised reported at least one underlying health condition, with most common being chronic lung diseases (such as asthma), cardiovascular diseases.
Meanwhile, in Singapore, a quick check on the summary of made available since the beginning of April shows that among the 21 reported pediatric patients who tested positive for COVID-19, 16 are male. Furthermore, based on this online dashboard, among the 49 pediatric cases reported here as of 11 April, 29 are male.
Parents Should Protect Children Against the Virus, Regardless of Their Gender
Still, it is noted that the research is still in its preliminary stages and that the authors are working with limited information. It is noted that the research did not suggest that parents should now be more concerned about their male children—more than their female children—getting severely ill from COVID-19. Experts said it is no reason for parents of boys to panic, and for parents of girls to think they are immune to the virus.
Image source: iStock
They also reiterated that the risk for children remains very low. In fact, though there have been multiple reports from all over the world about coronavirus-related death in children recently, only 0.1 percent of the children infected died.
Ultimately, authors of the study recommended that doctors maintain “a high index of suspicion” for children who could have COVID-19, especially for infants and kids with underlying conditions.
Having said this, experts recommend that as parents, protecting all children—equally, regardless of their gender—should be the top priority in this global pandemic.