Part of the show Naked Science Q&A Show
Nick, Boston asked:
We've had a bit of an epidemic here around Boston these last two months, and I've been getting into some trouble with my feminist friends for saying this, but of all those I know who've gotten it, the women have been hit far worse than the guys. For instance, I had a very upset stomach for a couple of days, and our 2-year old son vomited once but otherwise seemed almost fine, but my wife was violently ill for a day, had it coming out both ends if you know what I mean. I know two other couples with similar experiences. Why should this be?
We put this question to Jim Grey from the UK's Health Protection Authority. You can read and listen to the whole interview here.
Jim: Well, women probably have more infections because they have more contact with children. They change the nappies whereas the fathers rarely change the nappies. Its contact with the virus, really, that’s causing the disease. Why children have milder disease than adults is because these viruses are circulating all the time in children. They’re having multiple infections and therefore have some level of immunity to the virus, whereas the adults haven’t seen this virus since they were a child, and therefore they have very low, or no, immunity to the virus.