Dr. Fauci Says Who's at High Risk for COVID-19
Early on in the pandemic, it was established that certain people are more at risk of severe COVID-19 infection and even death. On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, gave the keynote remarks at the American Association for Cancer Research highlighting the importance of understanding who, exactly, falls into the high-risk category. "The United States has been hit harder than any country in the world with the most cases at now, 3.4 million and the most deaths at about 136,000," said Fauci, revealing a number of factors that can make individuals more prone to the virus than others. Click through to see if you have any of the conditions on his list.
Your Age Matters—In a Way
By now, we all know that older people are more likely to experience severe coronavirus infections and have a higher fatality rate. "As you gradually progress in age, when you get to older than 85, you have almost 600 rate per hundred thousand population for hospitalizations," he explained. However, he also reminded that younger people are far from immune—especially anyone who falls into other high risk categories. "But it is important to point out that people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at high risk for severe illness."
Chronic Kidney Disease
Per Dr. Fauci—as well as the CDC—people suffering from chronic kidney disease of any stage are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—which includes conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis—is known to increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. "Other chronic lung diseases, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and cystic fibrosis, may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19," explains the CDC.
Any Immunocompromised Hosts
Many conditions and treatments, "…such as with solid organ transplantation," explains Dr. Fauci, can cause a person to be immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system. As a result, it can make them more susceptible to viruses, including COVID-19. According to the CDC, in addition to organ transplant patients, the immunocompromised include those who have undergone blood or bone marrow transplants, suffer from immune deficiencies, the HIV positive with a low CD4 cell count or not on HIV treatment, and those with prolonged use of corticosteroid or use of other immune weakening medicines.
Having obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19, per the CDC. In fact, even mild obesity can have a major influence on the severity of the virus, according to a new study. Researchers found that even individuals with a BMI of between 30 to 34.9 were at an increased risk of respiratory failure and ICU admission as a result of the virus. Those with a BMI of 35 or over were at a dramatic increase of risk of death.
A variety of heart conditions—including heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, and pulmonary hypertension put you at an increased risk of severe coronavirus infection. Additionally, other cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) or stroke, may also up your risk.
Both types of diabetes have been linked to coronavirus risk. While type 2 diabetes increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19, type 1 or gestational diabetes may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19, per the CDC's latest research.
Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle cell disease (SCD), a common inherited blood disorder in the United States that affects an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 Americans, increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Other hemoglobin disorders—like thalassemia—may also increase your risk.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Dr. Fauci noted that other underlying medical conditions ("A couple of noteworthy ones: use of glucocorticoids, pregnancy, hypertension, HIV infection") will also increase your risk.
Minorities Are Affected Badly
According to Dr. Fauci, coronavirus does discriminate when it comes to race. "If you look at the age-associated rates and ethnicity, distribution of COVID-19 hospitalization rate, you can see the disproportionately high rate of hospitalization among minority communities, such as black, such as Hispanic Latinx, such as American Indians and Alaskan natives, the manifestations of severe disease," he said during his address.
How You Stay Stay Healthy
"The bottom line, common denominator is physical distancing, and this can be accomplished," advises Fauci, who also mentioned "stay at home orders, closing or modifying school schedules and public gatherings, travel restrictions…aggressive case identification and contact tracing," and also, "personal preventive measures include common-sense approaches, diligent hand-washing, avoiding close contact, covering the mouth and the nose with a mask or a cloth, respiratory hygiene like covering sneezes and coughs, avoiding face touching and regular cleaning of inanimate objects." As for yourself: To stay healthy no matter where you live, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), wear a face mask, practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.