San Diego, as is the case across the globe, has yet to see the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic. California Governor Gavin Newsom predicted that as many as 25 million Californians could be infected with the respiratory disease.
And while it is important to note that the number of those tested are likely a very small percentage of the total number of those infected by the virus, the test results provide a glimpse into possible trends.
So, which San Diego County residents have been the first to test positive for the disease?
Early reports indicated older people, ages 60 and over are more susceptible to the virus appear to have underplayed the fact that more younger people have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Of those that have tested positive for the coronavirus in San Diego, nearly half of the 242 infected are between the ages of 20 and 39. People aged 40-through 59 years-old tested positive for coronavirus just shy of 32 percent of those infected. The next largest group are those 60 and above with 16 percent.
The same can be said across the state. Of the 2,102 who tested positive for the coronavirus in California, those aged 18-49 were the highest age group, with 970 positive cases. The next highest age group were 50-to-64 year-olds with 493, followed by 449 senior citizens aged 65 and older.
Medical experts say it is still too early to know which age groups will be hit the hardest.
“One should exercise caution at this time in interpreting what is now just pilot data,” says Dr. Harsimran Baweja, a professor of neurology and physical therapy at San Diego State University. “There are reasons for people in every age group to be cautious because our understanding of who is most vulnerable to the virus is continuously changing. Just because older people are more likely to develop a severe case or die from the disease, it doesn’t mean some young people won’t.”
And while the age of those who will be most impacted by the coronavirus will change, a particular gender appears more at risk than others.
According to San Diego County Health and Human Services, nearly twice as many men in San Diego County have tested positive for coronavirus than women.
Numbers as of March 24 show 157 of the total 242 people who tested positive for the virus are male, whereas 85 women tested negative.
The ratio of men who have tested positive for coronavirus in San Diego County is higher than that across the entire state.
Numbers from the California Department of Health shows that 51 percent of those who tested positive for the virus have been men while 40 percent were women - the remaining 8 percent were listed as unknown.
“Historic data from previous coronavirus outbreaks shows men were disproportionately affected during the SARS and MERS outbreaks,” said Baweja. “While more women were infected by SARS in Hong Kong in 2003, data shows death rates among men was 50 percent higher.”
So, just why is that? Bawega says physiology.
“Men have weaker immune systems. From an evolutionary standpoint it makes sense that women have stronger immune systems to provide antibodies to the offspring via breast milk. Furthermore, women’s bodies produce stronger immune responses to immunization/vaccines than men and women are also at advantage with estrogen which appears to play a role in providing immunity.”
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Clark Smith has another theory, “There is speculation that males are more likely to be active, out in the community and susceptible to infection, however this is true for the nursing home population also. Maybe men are just less fastidious about washing their hands.”
To hear more about NBC 7 Investigates' reporting on the coronavirus listen to Insight, the team's podcast here.