The belief that more girls die of diseases because of neglect is not necessarily true, according to a study of measles in rural Senegal. The study suggests the severity of the disease is determined by the nature of infection and the sex of the person who transmitted it (The Lancet, Vol 340 No 8816). Data showed index cases (infections contracted from someone outside the house) resulted in fewer deaths than secondary cases (infections transmitted from someone living in the same house). There was no difference in the fatality rates between female and male index cases.
Children who contracted the disease from a person of the opposite sex living in the same house had a higher risk of death than secondary, same-sex infection cases. Fatality rates were higher in huts with one boy and one girl affected than in huts with two boys or two girls affected. The risk of cross-sex, secondary infection was greater for females than for males.