The most at-risk group from the coronavirus are those with weaker immune systems, especially the elderly and young children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) website.
The latest outbreak of the virus, known by many as corona, has now killed 132 people, with over 6,000 cases confirmed worldwide.
The outbreak began in the Chinese city of Wuhan but has spread to several other provinces within China and across borders regionally, as well as to countries including the US, Canada, France, Germany. The World Health Organization voted narrowly against declaring a global emergency yet has evaluated the global risk level as high.
Those at greater risk of developing a severe case of a coronavirus are people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults, according to information from the CDCP.
Of the severe cases already recorded, “64 percent are male and 72 percent are over 40 years of age,” said Mark Parrish, Regional Medical Director, International SOS.
Although there is an increased risk for children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions seem to be hardest hit, reported the New York Times.
However, as far as is known none of the fatalities to date have been among children.
According to local media, China's National Health Commission (NHC) has said that children are at risk of contracting the virus but that symptoms are expected to be mild.
Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who this month was honoured by the Chinese government for advising on the SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2003, said that “the majority of fatal cases are elderly and/or have a chronic disease that would increase their susceptibility to infectious diseases.”
People could be carrying the disease without showing symptoms for between two and ten days, the WHO estimates.
“There are no specific measures for those people in the most vulnerable categories, but we are advising anyone to use a number of precautionary measures,” said Parrish.
Al Arabiya English has compiled a list of how to protect yourself from the virus here.