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COVID-19 mortality risk highest amongst elderly: experts

ROC Central News Agency

03/09/2020 06:08 PM

Taipei, March 9 (CNA) Elderly people who have underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of death from the COVID-19 coronavirus than people in other demographics, Taiwan public health experts said Monday.

The latest global data shows that 85 percent of patients who have died of the disease in Italy were 65 years old and over, and in other parts of the world the mortality rate is 75 percent, Chen Hsiu-hsi (陳秀熙), vice dean of National Taiwan University's (NTU) College of Public Health, said at a press conference in Taipei.

However, people over the age of 49 account for only 15 percent-20 percent of the COVID-19 infections worldwide, he said.

"While the rate of transmission has been very fast, the deaths have been mostly among older people," he noted.

There is also a higher risk of elderly people being infected than younger people, Chen said.

"Data collected from around the world shows that 16.7 percent of patients over the age of 65 were infected by people below that age, while only 2.9 percent of younger people were infected by those over 65," he said.

Chen Ya-mei (陳雅美), an associate professor at NTU's Institute of Health Policy and Management, said one of the risk factors for elderly people is that many of them have pre-existing medical conditions, which leads to comorbidity and weakens their immune systems.

Citing a case study of a long-term care center in Washington State in the United States identified as the Life Care Center of Kirkland, a total of 13 of their patients who died between Feb. 19 and March 7 tested positive for COVID-19, she said.

A similar community outbreak also occurred at Sydney's BaptistCare Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care facility, she said, adding that up until Saturday, two of three elderly residents infected with the coronavirus have died.

Chen Ya-mei also warned that similar outbreaks may happen to long-term care centers in Taiwan because these institutions mostly house elderly people, many of whom have underlying medical conditions.

The public should not visit the elderly in long-term care centers if they are feeling unwell, she said.

"You can use the phone to give your loved ones a call. You can use social media such as Skype or Line to interact with the elderly," she added.

She also reminded the public that if they must visit to also maintain a distance of between 1.8 meters to 2 meters between people.

Taiwan, officially dubbed as an "aged" society, currently has some 3.78 million, or 16.03 percent, out of its nearly 24 million population over the age of 65, according to National Development Council statistics.

As of Monday, Taiwan had confirmed 45 COVID-19 infections, with 15 people having been discharged after being hospitalized for treatment, with just one death.

(By William Yen)

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