The threat of severe infection from COVID-19 increases with age. The highest rate of fatalities is among older people, predominantly those with other serious health conditions or a weakened immune system. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 in the community. The Journal of the American Medical Association carried out the research which stated that the general public over 60, and particularly over 80, are mostly exposed to the severe or fatal infection to the current on coronavirus.

The report further states that so far children of ages 1-19 account for just 2% of all infections, and one death worldwide. Of people in their 70s who were affected because of the virus, 8% died. India has currently reported a total of four deaths all of whom are above the age of 60 years.

Medical experts have stated people over 60 years, if infected, are more likely to have a severe, life-threatening disease even if their general health is good. One of the main risks is the weakening of the immune system with age. Older people with fundamental medical conditions are at particularly a high risk. One of the main reasons the elderly people are more prone to the virus is if there is a pre-existing condition like diabetes, heart disease or lung disease.

For people living with dementia or some form of cognitive impairment, the ability to follow the instruction or to alert others about potential symptoms may be a challenge. This is especially so where there is a limited capacity to communicate verbally or express pain and discomfort. In this situation, an observation by someone who knows the person with dementia may assist in identifying changes in their health.

What steps can the people take to prevent the spread of this virus? Good hygiene and taking care when interacting with other people are the best defenses for self and family against COVID-19. This includes:

  • covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
  • disposing of tissues immediately they are used, into a dedicated waste bin and washing your hands
  • washing your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet, and when you have been out to shops or other places
  • using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, where available
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces you have touched
  • where possible, stay 1.5 meters away from other people an example of “social distancing”
  • if you are sick, avoiding contact with others

(Author is working with the Research & Communications team at SDC Foundation. He tweets at AadarshAnand3