UPDATE: Who’s More Likely to Get a Severe COVID-19 Case?

While we all continue waiting for the development of a novel coronavirus vaccine and for the pandemic to finally loosen its grip on our lives, useful research keeps being released. Recently, we’ve explored practical topics like the best types of face masks to wear and the accuracy of existing Covid-19 tests. In this article, we’ll explain another crucial and ever-changing issue - the populations who are more susceptible to the virus.
At the end of June 2020, the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) updated their list of categories more susceptible to developing a severe Covid-19 infection, meaning the people who are most likely to require hospital care and have the highest mortality risk. There are some major changes, and there are now more categories of people considered to be more susceptible to Covid-19, here's what they are and why.

Previously Outlined Health Conditions and Risk Factors

Increased Risk of Covid-19 woman in hospital

Before we look at the new updates, let's review the categories of people previously known to be at a greater risk of Covid-19. The CDC previously stated that people who are immunocompromised due to a solid organ transplant are at a greater risk of developing complications and succumbing to the deadly virus. The same applies to those with serious underlying conditions, especially the following:

  • Heart Conditions like heart failure, cardiomyopathy, or coronary artery disease. It has been found that one of the complications of Covid-19 may be heart injury or the worsening of an underlying heart condition, so people with serious cardiac issues are more likely to suffer from long-term consequences of the virus or be overcome by the novel coronavirus. For more information on the cardiac effects of the disease, read our previous article titled The Cardiac Dangers of Covid-19.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease patients are more likely to be overwhelmed by the infection and suffer from long-term kidney damage or even kidney failure.
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a chronic lung condition where part of the lungs isn't active anymore, and these patients experience constant breathing problems and poor airflow from and to the lungs. Since the novel coronavirus primarily affects the lungs and causes viral pneumonia, breathing becomes even more difficult and can even cause lung failure. These patients are more likely to require the aid of a ventilator and suffer long-term consequences of the virus.
  • Sickle Cell Disease is a type of anemia, where the red blood cells are misshaped and so they cannot carry as much oxygen as they're supposed to. Research evidence shows that patients with sickle cell disease are more likely to develop complications and suffer from a serious case of Covid-19.

​Other conditions, such as asthma, cancer, etc. may also increase ones risk of Covid-19. For an exhaustive list, follow this link to the CDC Guidelines.

Increased Risk of Covid-19 elderly couple wearing masks
Another group of people disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus are senior citizens. Previously, the CDC suggested that those who are 65 or older are in the high-risk group for Covid-19, but in light of new scientific evidence, they've now changed these guidelines to a broader description. 
"CDC has removed the specific age threshold from the older adult classification. 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," state the updated CDC guidelines.
These updated guidelines are more realistic, essentially concluding that people in their 50s are at a greater risk than those in their 40s, and that the risk increases with age. Keep in mind that age itself is an independent risk factor, and it is NOT just the number of underlying health conditions that come with aging which increase one's risk of a severe infection.

Increased Risk of Covid-19 bathroom scale
The last previously-recognized risk factor for severe Covid-19, one that's largely overlooked, is obesity. Most people don't realize this, but excess weight by itself, even with no accompanying health conditions raises your likelihood of getting a serious coronavirus infection if you catch the virus. BMI of 30 or higher is a risk factor by itself according to the CDC. A serious study published in the reputable JAMA journal found that severely obese Covid-19 patients are 1.5 times more likely to succumb to the virus.

The New Additions to the List

Apart from the new age range specifications, the CDC now recognizes that diabetic patients are at a greater risk of severe Covid-19. Because there was initially no evidence that diabetic patients were more likely to contract the novel coronavirus, there was a lot of confusion in the diabetic community regarding the level of caution they should be taking against the virus.
However, there is evidence that diabetic patients do tend to get a more serious case of the virus than people with no underlying conditions, which is why the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) warned the population of the potential risks a long time before the CDC made the update, back in March of 2020.
Increased Risk of Covid-19 diabetes test
To further support the claim, a massive study from China with 72,000 participants showed that diabetics are more than 3 times more likely to succumb to the illness than healthy patients. As Dr. Joshua Miller, an endocrinologist and type 1 diabetic himself further explained in a statement to Healthline, "When a person with diabetes is in the hospital for this, their insulin needs go way up”, and people who didn't need insulin before may start using insulin. For now, the CDC recognizes that only patients suffering from type 2 diabetes should be extra cautious of the virus, but endocrinologists around the country agree that all diabetics should beware of the risks.
But not only people suffering from health conditions have an increased risk of Covid-19. For one, smokers and drug users are known to also have a higher risk of complications and death due to the dangerous virus. In addition, men seem to be disproportionately affected by the disease, as do disadvantaged social groups that have less access to vital healthcare. But all of this is old news. What is new is the fact that pregnant women, too, are more likely to suffer from a serious Covid-19 infection.
Increased Risk of Covid-19 pregnant woman in a mask
In fact, research shows that pregnant women are 5.5 times more likely to be hospitalized due to a Covid-19 infection than non-pregnant women. That said, there is no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to catch the virus than healthy non-pregnant women, but you should still execute caution and always strictly abide by all the social distancing and personal hygiene guidelines.
Pregnancy is a period of massive hormonal changes that take a serious toll on the strength of the woman's body and are an extreme stress for the body as is. So, if you're pregnant or know someone who is, try to make sure they are safe and protected from the novel coronavirus at all times to prevent any complications of the dangerous disease. Let's all stay safe and healthy!
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