Most of the victims had a serious health condition, the most common being a lung infection that the virus worsened, Italy's Higher Institute of Health has declared. Investigations are continuing into the deaths of the two who had no known chronic health problem, and the institute has not ruled out the possibility that they too had an underlying condition.
The average age of the victims was 80 years although many were 89 years old, and around 75 percent were male, said Silvio Brusaferro, the institute's president. People most at risk from the virus were the elderly who were "fragile, and carriers of multiple diseases".
Other researchers agree. Those who have investigated deaths in Wuhan, China—where the first cases were reported—discovered that the greatest risk was among the elderly and those with sepsis, a blood disorder.
Studying 191 coronavirus cases—54 of whom died—researchers from the Capital Medical University in China discovered that most had an underlying health problem, such as sepsis, high blood pressure or diabetes. As the Italian researchers observed, most of the victims were men.
Those most severely affected by the virus also had signs of a heart condition, including a previous heart attack.