Though coronavirus pays no attention to borders, race and nationality, its infection and mortality data suggest this virus is deadlier for men than women all over the world, including Bangladesh.
Health experts are still not sure enough about the exact reasons why it does so but they think men’s unhealthy lifestyle, much outside exposure and social engagement, carelessness about health issues and one’s hygiene and immunological, hormonal and genetic factors may be the causes for which coronavirus is killing more men than women.
They also said women have robust immune responses and greater ability to fight against infection, diseases and germs than men.
Talking to UNB, Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said 1,848 people infected with the virus in Bangladesh as of Friday and around 68 per cent of them are men and the rest are women.
She confirmed that this disparity reflects in a greater way in the death toll as well. “The mortality rate of women affected by the COVID-19 is significantly less than that of male patients.
However, Prof Flora did not specify any particular reason behind the higher male mortality rate. “We still need more information and relevant data to process and find the actual causes behind this type of outcome.”
She further drew a comparison with the rest of the world and said it is an unusual situation. “If you follow the global statistics, all the countries have more male patients than female ones and more men are dying than women,” she told UNB.
Citing Prof Marcia Stefanick of Stanford University School of Medicine, Wall Street Journal said the coronavirus pandemic is revealing the profound sex differences in immune systems.
According to Global Health 50/50, an academic research group, men are 50 to 80 per cent likelier to die of the coronavirus once infected.
A study of more than 44,000 patients conducted in China found that 2.8 per cent of Chinese men diagnosed with the virus ultimately died as of February 11. For women, however, the fatality was 1.7 per cent.
As of March 20, a WHO report said men represented around 70 per cent of coronavirus deaths in Western Europe.
Contacted, Professor Dr. Mohammed Atiqur Rahman, treasurer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) and a medicine specialist, said in almost all countries men are at the higher risk of coronavirus than their women counterparts, but there are still no scientifically proven reasons behind it.
He said researchers and health experts across the world assume a number of factors such as lifestyle activities, biological reasons and immunity system are likely working against men regarding the coronavirus infection and fatality.
The BSMMU professor said, “Many experts think men lead an unhealthier life than women as they smoke more than women and less conscious about personal hygiene and personal care. Smokers touch their lips more and their respiratory health is likely to be poorer and vulnerable to coronavirus. Many men also take liquor in our country unlike women.”
He also said men spend much more time outside their homes and in crowded places than women and this is one of the main reasons that COVID-19 does pose a noticeably bigger threat to men than it does to women in Bangladesh.
Besides, Dr Atiqur said, hormones and biological response might help women effectively fight against the virus as they have some important immune cells which play a role in increasing their immunity.
“As there’s no vaccine against the virus so far, both men and women should remain careful about prevent the virus. I suggest all to stay indoors as much as possible, maintain health hygiene, wash hands with soap frequently and take much vegetables and vitamin-c enriched fruits to get rid of coronavirus infection.”
Prof Dr Harun-or-Rashid, head of medicine department at Dhaka Community Medical College & Hospital (DCMCH), said the combination of behavioural, biological and hormonal factors that could explain why more men seem to be dying from coronavirus than women.
“In Bangladesh’s perspective, I think men are largely being victims to coronavirus for their much public exposure than women,” he said.
Citing some international studies, the health expert said, men are less likely to wash their hands or to use soap than women.
Dr Harun said biological factors are also the reasons for which more men are being reported as victims of the virus than women. “Female’s immune systems may function differently as they’ve extra X chromosome. Females carry two X chromosomes, which contain immune-related genes but males carry only one X chromosome.”
Irrespective of sex and age, he urged all to strongly maintain social distancing, cleanliness and stay at home to remain safe from the deadly virus.