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Why Maryland's Elderly Are More At-Risk For Coronavirus

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- While Maryland reported its ninth positive coronavirus case Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan recommended precautions for the state's elderly residents: avoid large crowds and traveling.

Hogan said residents 60 and older are most at-risk when it comes to the coronavirus. So far, six of the positive coronavirus cases in the state are people over the age of 50. Officials did not share the age of the couple that tested positively for coronavirus Tuesday in Prince George's County.

Gov. Hogan Asks Older Residents To Avoid Large Crowds, Travel As Maryland Reports Its 8th Coronavirus Case

"We are advising older people [and those with underlying health conditions] to avoid crowds and large gatherings and traveling, flying on planes as much as possible," Hogan said.

The governor also issued several recommendations for the state's nursing homes including limiting visitors and telling sick staff to stay at home.

But why are the elderly the most vulnerable? Dr. Mirian Alexander from LifeBridge Health said it's because their immune systems are weaker and they don't necessarily have the reserves to fight off the virus.


"Older people get symptomatic," Alexander said.

The elderly she said are more prone to having systems when they get infected with any illness, but especially respiratory illnesses like the flu.

If they already have medical issues like they're a smoker, have COPD or use oxygen, respiratory illnesses can make it harder for them to breathe. It can also affect their kidney functions.

"We see this with the flu. There no more at risk for exposure, but they could have serious symptoms," Dr. Alexander said.

Hogan said the mortality rate associated with coronavirus is three to five times higher than the flu.

Dr. Alexander said there's still so much to learn about coronavirus or COVID-19.

"A lot of panic, comes from the unknown," Alexander said, but added that people should think of this of an opportunity, to remind themselves that handwashing, hand hygiene, covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.

Although signs of flu and coronavirus are similar, a subtle sign caregivers should look for is a loss of appetite, if the elderly person is drinking less or confused.

That's a good sign to reach out to a health care provider and seek medical attention.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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