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Why the Coronavirus Kills More Men

Why the Coronavirus Kills More Men
Jennifer Billock

Coronavirus COVID-19 is rapidly spreading around the world, seemingly impervious to measures to stop it. And as each case is being studied worldwide, scientists have uncovered a unique pattern: It seems to kill men more than any other group.

What Do the Numbers Say?

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently published what’s considered the largest study of the coronavirus so far, and results showed that men are dying at a higher rate than women—2.8 percent for men, compared to 1.7 percent for women.

It’s not a wholly unusual experience, though. Infectious diseases in the past have seemed to follow a similar pattern. With SARS for example, women got infected easier, but men died at a 50 percent higher rate. MERS had similar numbers; 25.8 percent of women died, and 32 percent of men died. It was again the same with the flu epidemic in 1918. It appears coronaviruses just prefer men.

“This is a pattern we’ve seen with many viral infections of the respiratory tract — men can have worse outcomes,” Sabra Klein, a scientist studying sex differences in viral infections and vaccination responses at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told The New York Times. “We’ve seen this with other viruses. Women fight them off better.”

Why Are Women Better at Fighting the Virus?

The explanation for why this happens isn’t completely clear yet. But scientists think it’s a combination of things, both biological and lifestyle related. Women have a stronger immune response when infected with a virus, first of all. They also have stronger immune responses to vaccinations and to diseases they’ve previously been infected with, possibly because women have two X chromosomes, which have immune-related genes.

“There’s something about the immune system in females that is more exuberant,” Dr. Janine Clayton, director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health, told The Times. Women are, though, much more likely to get an autoimmune disease.

Lifestyle may factor into the death rates as well. Men are less likely to wash their hands and to use soap while doing so, they’re less likely to seek out medical care, and they’re more likely to smoke and have diabetes.

View Comments (2)

2 Comments

  1. Andy Kramar

    March 6, 2020 at 5:07 am

    “It seems to kill men more than any other group.” Besides women what is the other group?

  2. DCAFly

    March 6, 2020 at 8:36 am

    I guess there’s no point reading or commenting on stories if you don’t publish our comments.

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