Risk Factors

The CDC has updated their list of high-risk conditions for severe illness from COVID-19. These updates change the high-risk age range, and add more high-risk underlying medical conditions.

The novel coronavirus outbreak began in late 2019 as a brand new virus. Medical professionals and science experts have needed time to study COVID-19 and its effects on the human body. Over the past few months, the CDC has learned new information about who is at highest risk for severe symptoms and why.

“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,” stated CDC director Robert Redfield MD.

7. Updates to Age-Related Risk

Senior Cohousing

Originally, the CDC guidelines claimed that the highest age-related risk for severe symptoms for COVID-19 were adults 65 and over. The CDC updates to age-related risk now include a wider range.

Officially, the CDC update states “Among adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at higher risk.” This means the older you get, the rougher your experience with the novel coronavirus could be.

6. Updates to Underlying Medical Condition Risk

Medical Papers

Though the CDC admits their knowledge is still limited of COVID-19 severity with underlying medical conditions, new information has come to light. Their list of high-risk underlying medical conditions includes cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity and sickle cell disease, among other serious conditions.

The CDC also updated the list of underlying conditions with “increased risk” for severe illness from coronavirus. The updated list includes pregnancy, plus a warning for children with medical complexities.

Some of these high-risk underlying conditions for coronavirus (like obesity) were previously listed, but now include additional data or concerns.

5. High Risk Condition – Cancer

Cancer Risk

In July 2020, the CDC added cancer to their list of high-risk underlying medical conditions for severe coronavirus illness. This is due in part to a cancer patient’s weakened immune system. Even chemotherapy treatments can weaken the immune system and put cancer patients at higher risk of virus infections.

The CDC recommends that cancer patients follow their doctor’s protocols for cancer treatment, while taking extra precautions for COVID-19 prevention. It’s important for cancer patients to continue getting consistent medical care, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

4. High Risk Condition – Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes Mellitus

People with blood sugar disorders, specifically type 2 diabetes, are at high-risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms. They aren’t more likely to contract the virus than other people, but once infected can suffer extreme illness.

When a person with type 2 diabetes has coronavirus, the inflammation already in their body can become worse. People with diabetes are also at greater risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) when infected with COVID-19. DKA could lead to sepsis, a life-threatening spread of infection through the body.

3. High Risk Condition – Obesity

Risk Of Obesity

Obesity was already on the CDC’s radar as a high-risk for COVID-19 severe illness, but it’s a significant cause for concern. People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and higher are those with the greatest risk. As with age-related risk, the higher the BMI number the more risk of severe illness from novel coronavirus.

Doctors are reporting that many of the American young people who end up in hospitals with severe coronavirus symptoms are overweight or obese.

BMI in pounds and inches can be calculated using this formula: weight (lb.) divided by height (in.) squared, then multiplied by 703. The CDC provides a BMI calculator on their website.

2. High Risk Condition – Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is classified as a hemoglobin disorder. It’s hereditary, more often affecting people of African descent. Sickle cell is also an underlying medical condition that puts people at high-risk for COVID-19 severe illness.

When the “sickling” effect of sickle cell disease happens, red blood cells change shape and clog blood vessels. If this happens in the lungs due to a respiratory illness like COVID-19, very serious acute chest syndrome can result. Acute chest syndrome can be painful and lead to pneumonia.

1. Everyone Should Practice Prevention

Hand Sanitzer (2)

The CDC recommends that anyone with an underlying medical condition always have at least a 30-day supply of important medications on hand. This is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic. Meds and medical services might be harder to come by during a significant outbreak.

Everyone, no matter their age or COVID-19 infection risk, should take general precautions daily during the pandemic. Shelter at home as much as possible. Wear a face mask in public. Stay at least six feet away from other people. Wash your hands consistently and thoroughly. Don’t touch your face. Try not to spend more than 15 minutes in an enclosed space (without ventilation) where other people are present.

Related: The CDC Just Added New COVID-19 Symptoms: Ranked from Most to Least Common


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