Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans. It is important to note this distinction because what experts currently know about the new virus is based on modelling from similar viruses and the data thrown up by its real-time impact on human populations.
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Using both modelling techniques and real-time insights, experts are shedding light on the characteristics that may increase your risk catching the virus.
Adding to the emerging body of research, a new study claims that that your blood type may influence your likelihood of catching the virus.
Researchers from Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University have revealed that people with blood type A may be more vulnerable to the disease than those with blood type O.
To arrive at this verdict, researchers analysed 2,173 coronavirus patients, including 206 people who had died after contracting the virus.
They found that while type O (34 percent) blood is more common in the general population than type A (32 percent), in COVID-19 patients, people with Type O accounted for just 25 percent, whereas Type A made up 41 percent.
Meanwhile, of the 206 patients who died in the study, 41 percent were found to be type A, while just 25 percent were type O.
Commenting on their results, the researchers, led by Jiao Zhao, said: “Blood group O was associated with a lower risk of death compared with non-O groups. To the contrary, blood group A was associated with a higher risk of death compared with non-A groups.”
In light of their findings, the researchers suggest that additional protective measures may be needed for people that fall into the type A blood category.
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They said: “People of blood group A might need particularly strengthened personal protection to reduce the chance of infection.
“Sars-CoV-2-infected patients with blood group A might need to receive more vigilant surveillance and aggressive treatment.”
However, due to the small sample size study, further evidence is needed to directly inform public action.
Speaking to South China Morning Post, Gao Yingdai, a researcher with the State Key Laboratory of Experimental Haematology in Tianjin, said: “[The study] may be helpful to medical professionals, but ordinary citizens should not take the statistics too seriously.”
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Yingdai added: “If you are type A, there is no need to panic. It does not mean you will be infected 100 percent.
“If you are type O, it does not mean you are absolutely safe, either. You still need to wash your hands and follow the guidelines issued by authorities.”
How is blood type determined?
According to the NHS, your blood group is determined by the genes you inherit from your parents.
There are four main blood groups (types of blood) – A, B, AB and O.
“Blood group O is the most common blood group. Almost half of the UK population (48 percent) has blood group O,” says the health body.
Officially recognised at-risk groups
Public Health England says you at risk if you are:
- Aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
- Under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
- Chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
- Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- Chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease,motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, a learning disability or cerebral palsy
- Problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
- A weakened immune system is the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- Being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
- Those who are pregnant
How can I protect those most at risk?
The key message current being communicated by public health bodies is to is to self-isolate for seven days if you have mild symptoms.
As a preventative measure, it is also vital to wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds.
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