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African Americans, men, and people younger than 55 less likely to know things about COVID-19 

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Gaps in knowledge about the novel coronavirus were seen among different races, sexes and ages, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that men and people younger than 55 years old knew less about how COVID-19 spreads, and its most common symptoms, than women and older people.

Additionally, African Americans had less knowledge about the disease than their white counterparts. 

What’s more, all three of these groups are at severe risk of illness, especially because all were more likely to leave their homes. 

The team, from Harvard University, says the findings suggest that more accurate information about coronavirus needs to be distributed among minority communities, men and younger people.  

African Americans were about 12% less likely than whites to know that a person can become infected by touching a contaminated surface, men were 6% and people from ages 18 to 29 years old were 16% less likely to know. Pictured: A doctor examines a patient being monitored for coronavirus at Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, April 22

African Americans were about 12% less likely than whites to know that a person can become infected by touching a contaminated surface, men were 6% and people from ages 18 to 29 years old were 16% less likely to know. Pictured: A doctor examines a patient being monitored for coronavirus at Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, April 22

Black participants were also 12% less likely to know that cough, fever, and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms and young people were 25% less likely to know (above)

Black participants were also 12% less likely to know that cough, fever, and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms and young people were 25% less likely to know (above)

For the report. published in JAMA Network Open, the team surveyed nearly 5,200 people above age 18 in late March and early April 2020.

First, participants were asked if they had already contracted the virus or personally knew somebody who had.

Next, the survey asked several questions about transmission, such as if a person could infect others without being sick or showing symptoms.

Participants were asked to answer ‘yes or ‘no’ to five questions about whether or not the virus spreads through close contact with an infected person, through respiratory droplets, by touching a contaminated surface, through unprotected sex and if the virus is a hoax.

Another question asked respondents to identify the top three symptoms from the following list fever, dry eyes, skin rash, cough, difficulty breathing, swollen legs, acid reflux, stomachache, and watery eyes. 

Answers about incidence, knowledge, and behavior of coronavirus were then matched with demographics factors such as sex, age, race and annual income.

Results showed that African Americans were 3.5 percentage points more likely than whites respondents to report being infected with COVID-19.

They were also 7.2 percentage points more likely than Caucasians to know someone who tested positive for the virus.

Additionally, the majority of respondents knew how COVID-19 spreads.

Nearly 90 percent of participants knew all top three symptoms, which are fever coughing and difficulty breathing.

Only 10 percent believed the virus could be spread through unprotected sex and just five percent believed the pandemic was a hoax.

However, gaps in knowledge about the spread of coronavirus was mostly seen when it came to race, age and sex.

For example, African Americans were about 12 percent less likely than whites to know that one can become infected by touching a contaminated surface. 

Men were also about six percent less likely than women to know this information and people between ages 18 and 29 were 16 percent less likely to know this than people ages 55 to 64.

Similar links were found when it came to knowledge of COVID-19 symptoms.

African Americans were 12 percent less likely to know that cough, fever, and shortness of breath were the most common symptoms of the virus. 

Similarly, participants between ages 18 and 29 years were nearly 25 percent less likely to know about the three symptoms than those aged 55 and above.

These same three groups – African Americans, men, and younger individuals – were also more likely to leave their homes, but the team says this may be due to social circumstances.

This includes not have jobs where telecommuting is possible, having jobs deemed ‘essential’ and needing to use public transportation.

Researchers say that knowledge and behaviors were ‘closely related’ ant that greater efforts to communicate the risk of the virus nee to be targeted towards racial minorities and younger people.

‘These findings confirm anecdotal reports of concerning gaps in reported prevalence and knowledge regarding COVID-19 across different demographic characteristics in the US population,’ the authors wrote.

‘More effort will be needed to address the knowledge and behavior gaps between white and African American individuals, between men and women, and between older and younger populations.’

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