The novel coronavirus doesn’t seem to be discriminating against who it affects. But are there groups that are at higher risk of infection than others?
The Center For Disease Control is careful to say that older folks, those with underlying medical conditions and those living with HIV/AIDS might be at higher risk of getting the virus.
"It's based on who is most likely to get the disease," said Brian Labus, an assistant professor at UNLV's School of Public Health. "And if they do get the disease, [it's] who is most likely to have a serious complication or die. That's based on the presence of underlying conditions. The kind of things that make it tough for your immune system to fight things off."
For instance, someone on chemotherapy for cancer, or someone taking certain medications or someone with diabetes, are more at risk. Older people are more at risk simply because our immune systems weaken as we age.
People with asthma or those who smoke are also at higher risk, Labus said.
"This is a respiratory illness that affects the lungs," he said, "Anytime you have physical damage to the lung, which is what you get from smoking or problems you see with the inflammation from asthma or other underlying lung problems, it's going to be tougher for your body to deal with something that gets in there."
He said anyone with those issues is going to have a problem fighting off a lot of different kinds of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19
And then there’s those with compromised immune systems like people with HIV/AIDS.
There’s no evidence yet they are directly affected by the virus, but concerns abound since those with suppressed immune systems can be affected by other viral respiratory illnesses.
Labus said even without an outbreak of a potentially deadly virus, HIV/AIDS patients need to practice social distancing to stay healthy during flu and cold season, depending on how compromised their immune systems are.
Gary Costa, the executive director for Golden Rainbow, which helps people with HIV/AIDS in Southern Nevada, said the people his group works with are very concerned about the spreading virus.
Brian Labus, assistant professor, UNLV School of Public Health; Gary Costa, executive director, Golden Rainbow