Smoking ‘may increase risk of catching coronavirus’ and worsen symptoms, scientists warn – The Sun

SMOKERS may face an increased risk of coronavirus and suffer worse symptoms, scientists warn.

Experts say that the habit weakens the function of the lungs and could leave people more susceptible to the deadly bug.

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It comes as cases in the UK surged to 85 today, while more than 94,000 people have been infected globally.

While there is no direct link between smoking and Covid-19 as yet, experts say people who smoke might be putting themselves at risk.

Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist, told Business Insider that anyone with a history of smoking could be more vulnerable to the killer virus.

She told Business Insider: "Since Covid-19 is a respiratory disease and often causes pneumonia, having a history of smoking could increase the risk of more severe respiratory distress or pneumonia."

Lung damage

Professor Robert Dingwall, a public health expert at Nottingham Trent University, told The Sun Online: "There is certainly a respectable body of medical opinion that thinks serious outcomes are more likely among heavy smokers.

"Basically any previous lung damage increases that risk.

"If you are an ex-miner with pneumoconiosis and a smoker you should definitely be concerned."

He added that it's unlikely to affect the chances of getting the disease, but it could lead to more serious complications if you did contract it.

Serious outcomes are more likely among heavy smokers

Professor Sanjaya Senanayake, from the Australian National University (ANU), said while no direct link had been established, smoking increased other conditions that do make Covid-19 worse.

He told Daily Mail Australia: "Smoking is associated with other illnesses such as chronic lung and chronic heart diseases which are associated with more severe disease and worse outcomes from coronavirus."

Dr Senanayake pointed out that while a link hadn't yet been established, it doesn't mean there wouldn't be one in future.

"It's always a good time to quit smoking," he added.

The first two patients to die at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, detailed in the Lancet Medical journal, were both long-term smokers.

Researchers from China and the US carried out analysis of the first 8,000 cases of coronavirus.

They found that men were more likely to be diagnosed with the disease and suffer severe symptoms, including pneumonia.

Survival rates

Their findings also revealed that the survival rates between males and females were markedly different.

In the first six weeks of the outbreak 1.7 per cent of women died compared with 2.8 per cent of men.

Experts believe there are a few reasons for this discrepancy, including some biological and other lifestyle choices, such as smoking.

In China, men are much more likely to smoke than women, which can lead to a weaker immune system.

In fact China has the largest population of smokers in the world – accounting for nearly a third of the world's smokers – but just two per cent of them are women.

Meanwhile, in the UK 16.5 per cent of men – around 3.9 million – and 13 per cent of women – around 3.2 million – reported being current smokers.

The study showed that being an older male is another risk, with almost 10 per cent of infected men over the age of 60 succumbing to the disease.

Men were also disproportionately affected during the SARS and MERS outbreaks – which were caused by similar coronaviruses.

More women were infected by SARS in Hong Kong in 2003, but the death rate was 50 per cent higher, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome killed 32 percent of men infected compared with 25.8 per cent of women.

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