With more than 200,000 coronavirus cases worldwide and thousands of deaths, a striking pattern is appearing in the hardest-hit countries: More men are dying than women.
No where is this trend more pronounced than in Italy. Men make up nearly 60% of people with confirmed cases of the virus and more than 70% of those who have died from covid-19, according to the country's main public health research agency.
On the other end of the spectrum is South Korea, where about 61% of confirmed infections have been in women. Though far fewer patients have died, the majority of fatalities - 54% -- were again in men.
As the pandemic escalates, epidemiologists and public health authorities are scrambling to understand who is most vulnerable and how to protect them. The data from countries such as Italy and South Korea show that the disease can take wildly different paths.
Exactly what makes a group vulnerable - and how to protect them - has experts "mystified," said Carlos del Rio, chair of the department of global health at Emory University. "This difference in mortality is creating a lot of anxiety," he added.
The outbreak of covid-19 in Italy is the deadliest in the world. As of March 17, more than 40,000 people there have been sickened with the virus, and 3,405 have died. That means that, based on these current and unavoidably incomplete figures, 8.2 percent of people infected in the country have died. That is more than double the global figure presented recently by the WHO.
Italy's aging population is probably particularly susceptible to the disease, researchers say. With a median age of 46.5, according to the CIA World Factbook, it is the fifth oldest country in the world. And these elderly citizens are those who have become the sickest: People over the age of 70 represent...