Amid the uncertainty swirling around the coronavirus pandemic stands one incontrovertible fact: The highest rate of fatalities is among older people, particularly those with underlying medical conditions.
Of the confirmed cases in China to date, nearly 15 percent of patients over 80 have died. For those under 50, the death rate was well below 1 percent.
There is no evidence yet that older people are significantly more likely to acquire the coronavirus than younger people. But medical experts say that if people over 60 are infected, they are more likely to have severe, life-threatening disease, even if their general health is good. Older people with underlying medical conditions are at particularly high risk. Experts attribute some of the risk to a weakening of the immune system with age.
This leaves older people and their families wondering what extra precautions they should take. Several best practices have been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, geriatricians and infectious diseases specialists.
Familiarize yourself with guidelines and follow them.
Geriatricians recommend their patients adhere to current recommendations from the C.D.C. and W.H.O., a litany of advice that has become all too familiar: Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) or clean them with alcohol-based hand gel; avoid handshakes; stay away from large gatherings; clean and disinfect objects that are touched frequently; and avoid public transportation and crowds. Stock up on supplies.
Cruises are out, as is nonessential travel. Visits with grandchildren are ill-advised.