BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Roughly 14,000 more women have tested positive for COVID-19 than men have in Louisiana, according to state health department data.
Women account for 56% of positive cases, though 53% of the Louisianans who’ve died from coronavirus complications are men. The apparent gender gap is in line with national trends and analyses.
“There’s not a definitive reason why,” assistant state health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said. “There’s a lot of theories and some speculation, but nothing that’s been proven to this point.”
Kanter said there is no evidence, for now, that genetic differences explain the disparity. Scientists at Duke University and other research institutions are experimenting on rodents to determine if estrogen levels play a role in the human response to the virus.
“My suspicion is that it’s probably more behavioral than genetic, but we’ll see,” Kanter said, adding that it’s possible asymptomatic women are more likely to be tested than asymptomatic men. He also said men may not be as willing to seek medical treatment when they become ill.
Health officials say occupational norms may influence data, as well. Health care workers on the front lines of the fight against the virus are predominately women, but there is again no conclusive evidence to confirm this theory.
Kanter said, until genetic research is finished, scientists probably won’t know how to explain the gap. It is not a new mystery, though.
“We’re told the same thing happened with the influenza outbreak of 1918,” Kanter said, making reference to the gap in deaths. Men were more likely to die during a number of other more recent outbreaks, including SARS and MERS.
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