As more information, research, studies, and statistics are made available in regards to COVID-19, the group of individuals deemed “high risk” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to expand. On Thursday, the CDC released an updated and expanded list of who is at increased risk for getting severely ill from COVID-19. “Understanding who is most at risk for severe illness helps people make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities,” CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD said. “While we are all at risk for COVID-19, we need to be aware of who is susceptible to severe complications so that we take appropriate measures to protect their health and well-being.” Here are 13 major changes the CDC made to the list:
No longer are those “65 and over” being defined as the higher risk age group. “CDC now warns that among adults, risk increases steadily as you age, and it’s not just those over the age of 65 who are at increased risk for severe illness,” they explain. They point to recent data, including an MMWR published last week, showing that the older people are, the higher their risk of severe illness from COVID-19. “Age is an independent risk factor for severe illness, but risk in older adults is also in part related to the increased likelihood that older adults also have underlying medical conditions,” they point out.
As part of their updated list of underlying medical conditions that increase risk of severe illness, the CDC found there was consistent evidence (from multiple small studies or a strong association from a large study) that specific conditions increase a person’s risk of severe COVID-19 illness. An estimated 60 percent of American adults have at least one chronic medical condition. The more underlying medical conditions people have, the higher their risk. One of these includes chronic kidney disease. “Having chronic kidney disease of any stage increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” they explain, offering several recommendations for those with the condition.
“Having COPD (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) is known to increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” explains the CDC. Other chronic lung diseases can also result in complications, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and cystic fibrosis.
“Obesity is one of the most common underlying conditions that increases one’s risk for severe illness—with about 40 percent of U.S. adults having obesity,” the CDC points out. According to a recent study, those with obesity are three times as likely to die from coronavirus than those with a normal body weight.
An immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood, bone marrow, or organ transplant; HIV; use of corticosteroids; or use of other immune weakening medicines, can put you at risk for severe coronavirus. “Many conditions and treatments can cause a person to be immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system,” they explain. “These include: having a solid organ transplant, blood, or bone marrow transplant; immune deficiencies; HIV with a low CD4 cell count or not on HIV treatment; prolonged use of corticosteroids; or use of other immune weakening medicines.”
Having serious heart conditions—heart failure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathies, pulmonary hypertension—increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. One major study found that heart disease was the most common comorbidity of those who experienced severe coronavirus symptoms, accounting for nearly a third.
Having sickle cell disease (SCD) increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC. Having other hemoglobin disorders, like thalassemia, may increase your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Having type 2 diabetes increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. “Based on what we know at this time, having type 1 or gestational diabetes may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” writes the CDC. One study found that people who suffer from the coronavirus who have Type 2 diabetes—the most common form of diabetes—are twice as likely to die than those who do not suffer from diabetes.
The CDC also clarified the list of other conditions that might increase a person’s risk of severe illness, including additions such as asthma. “COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs), cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease,” the CDC writes.
In addition to serious heart conditions, having other cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” says the CDC. According to one study, published June 4 in European Heart Journal, hypertension doubles your chance of mortality. “It is important that patients with high blood pressure realize that they are at increased risk of dying from COVID-19,” study co-author Professor Ling Tao department of cardiology, Xijing Hospital in Xi’an explained in a press release. “They should take good care of themselves during this pandemic and they need more attention if they are infected with the coronavirus.”
Having neurologic conditions such as dementia may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19, says the CDC. One analysis of data from Pennsylvania and New York courtesy of NPR, found that people with intellectual disabilities and autism –including dementia — who are infected with COVID-19 die at higher rates than the rest of the population.
In addition to other heart conditions, a history of stroke can put you more at risk for serious COVID-19 infection.
According to an MMWR published today pregnant women were significantly more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to the intensive care unit, and receive mechanical ventilation than nonpregnant women. However, pregnant women were not at greater risk for death from COVID-19.
The CDC encourages keeping your potential exposure to the virus at a minimum. “Every activity that involves contact with others has some degree of risk right now. Knowing if you are at increased risk for severe illness and understanding the risks associated with different activities of daily living can help you make informed decisions about which activities to resume and what level of risk you will accept. This information is especially critical as communities begin to reopen,” they write. They suggest “focusing on activities where social distancing can be maintained, washing your hands frequently, limiting contact with and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces or shared items, and wearing a cloth face covering when you are around people you do not live with, especially when it is difficult to stay 6 feet apart or when people are indoors.”
As for yourself, to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.