Women seem to be less likely to die from coronavirus than men, and children appear to be less likely to die than other age groups.
Most people will get a mild infection, but the pattern is clear in the most severe cases. So what is going on?
All the information we have is coming from a massive study by the Chinese Centres of Disease Control.
It looked at 44,000 people and showed 2.8% of infected men died, compared with 1.7% of women.
And 0.2% of children and teenagers died compared with nearly 15% of people over the age of 80.
Are women and children less likely to catch coronavirus?
There are two ways of explaining the findings.
Either these groups are less likely to be infected in the first place, or their bodies are more able to cope with the virus.
“Normally with new viruses circulating, everybody gets infected: that’s the important point,” says Dr Bharat Pankhania, from the University of Exeter.
This is because there is no immunity to the virus as nobody has been exposed to it before.
However, in the very early stages of an outbreak, children may be less likely to catch the virus.
“One reason we haven’t seen so many cases in children is they are protected at the beginning of outbreaks: parents keep children away from the sick,” said Dr Nathalie MacDermott, from King’s College London.
What’s saving women’s lives?
You might be surprised there’s a difference between men and women’s death rates from coronavirus, but scientists aren’t.
We see the same effect in a wide range of infections, including flu.
Part of the answer is men are generally in worse health than women owing to lifestyle choices like smoking.
“Smoking damages your lungs – that’s not going to be a winner,” says Dr MacDermott.
This may be a particular problem in China, where estimates suggest 52% of men smoke compared with just 3% of women.
But there are also differences in the way the immune systems of men and women respond to infection.
“Women have intrinsically different immune responses to men. Women are more likely to suffer from auto-immune diseases, and there is good evidence that women produce better antibodies to vaccines against flu,” says Prof Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia.
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