Who's really at risk in coronavirus outbreak?

Younger people aren't high-risk, but they could spread the disease to vulnerable Americans

The global coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, has a 3.4 percent fatality rate, but that number alone doesn't illustrate the vastly greater risk that the virus poses to people over the age of 70.

"You look at the totality of the people we know a lot about now from China, form South Korea, form Northern Italy, from other places – that about 80 percent of the individuals who are infected will be ill, but will recover spontaneously for the most part," Dr. Mehmet Oz said on "Fox and Friends" on Monday. "If you look at the people who wind up getting into serious difficulty, and even dying, that’s very heavily weighted towards individuals with underlying conditions particularly the elderly."

Younger patients are less likely to die if they get infected. Middle-aged people make up most of the cases.

However, people over the age of 60 face the worst chances of survival should they contract the virus. Nearly 15 percent of patients over 80 who contracted the virus died.

There are more than 550 cases of coronavirus in more than 30 states, and at least 21 Americans have died. Many of those deaths have been linked to a Life Care Center, a senior care facility, in Kirkland, Washington.


U.S. health leaders are stressing that all Americans protect themselves from the coronavirus so that they don't spread it to at-risk populations like seniors.

"I want to explain the strategy here that the entire public doesn't understand," Dr. Marc Siegel told FOX Business' Stuart Varney on Monday. "It's something called 'cocooning.' We want someone who's 80 to 90 years old, that has a chronic condition that could die from this, we don't want this virus climbing up their door."

A man wearing a mask walks away from the entrance of the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The facility has been tied to several confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) (Associated Press)

"The reason we're restricting everything is so there's less virus in the community," Siegel said.

The virus is hitting the United States as many students are on spring break and visiting family, including grandparents. Some schools and universities are telling students that classes will be online after spring break.


In New York, several schools have shut down for cleaning after teachers or parents tested positive for the virus or were exposed to it. Westchester's Scarsdale Public School District is canceling classes until March 18 and could pivot to "e-learning." Exclusive girls' school Brearley on Manhattan's Upper East Side canceled classes this week after a parent was exposed to coronavirus, The New York Post reported.