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This Makes You "Much More" Likely to Die, Virus Expert Says

Four things that put you at a greater risk of dying from Omicron.

As we continue to ride out the Omicron wave, hospitals remain overstretched with COVID patients and cases are still high in many areas. "The daily average of U.S. cases remains about 519,000 a day — more than double the worst statistics from last winter," the New York Times reports. While Omicron symptoms can be less severe for some people, for others catching the virus could be a death sentence. "There are many conditions and risk factors that have been linked with high mortality and morbidity associated with COVID-19 infections. My understanding is that there are many common pathways for why these conditions predispose people to a higher risk of death. One such pathway is weaker immune responses in certain groups of individuals," Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D. Professor of Public Health New Mexico State University tells Eat This, Not That! Health. There are a few factors that increase a person's risk from dying as a result of getting Omicron and Dr. Khubchandani explains what they are below. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.



Doctor measuring obese man waist body fat.

According to Dr. Khubchandani, "Obese individuals have a higher risk of death and severe outcomes and this has been shown across a plethora of studies. Even for critically ill patients, comparing obese and non-obese shows a higher risk of poor outcomes and death for obese individuals.  For obesity, some pathways seem biologically plausible such as chronic inflammation in obese individuals leading to disruption of immune response to COVID-19 infection (especially, in individuals with high visceral fat. You can link a visceral fat reduction article?). Also, reduced lung capacity in obese individuals along with a greater tendency to have chronic diseases (e.g diabetes) further increases the risk of death in obese individuals."



Woman in her 30s sits by her living room window with a cup of tea and looks out contemplatively. She is a cancer survivor and is wearing a headscarf.

Dr. Khubchandani says, "Cancer is a leading cause of death (especially, in the United States) and the rates have increased worldwide. However, survival rates have also improved, which means more people with cancer live in communities today than ever before. Unfortunately, individuals with cancer who get COVID-19 infection have much higher death rates because they are often older, frail, with multiple risk factors and chronic diseases, and many receive chemotherapy or treatments that weaken the immune system."

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Kidney Disease

At doctors appointment physician shows to patient shape of kidney with focus on hand with organ. Scene explaining patient causes and localization of diseases of kidney, stones, adrenal, urinary system - Image

"Chronic kidney disease (e.g. failing or weak kidneys) and chronic heart disease (e.g. congestive heart failure) increase the risk of COVID-19 related death, serious outcomes, hospitalization, and long-term health issues," Dr. Khubchandani states.  "Again, individuals with these disorders are generally older, have multiple health conditions, and have weaker immune systems. Multiple physiological and biochemical reactions occur with COVID-19 infections; individuals with chronic diseases cannot mount a good immune response and their organ systems get overwhelmed."

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Autoimmune Disorders

Sign of healthcare medicine campaign holding in female doctor hand

Dr. Khubchandani explains, "Other conditions, just to name a few are HIV/AIDS,  immunocompromised, having autoimmune disorders, multiple chronic diseases, and being unvaccinated increases the risk of death. With vaccines, I believe that something is better than nothing. Even if we question that existing vaccines were not designed to target the Omicron variant or new variants, studies show that fully vaccinated people have some protection against death and hospitalizations. For boosted individuals, the level of protection against death and hospitalization is much higher. The latest study that came out, shows how existing vaccines could offer some level of protection against multiple variants."

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Increased Risk of Death

Infected patient in quarantine lying in bed in hospital, coronavirus concept.

Dr. Khubchandani says, "We cannot accurately predict how much the chance of death due to COVID-19 infections can increase in the aforementioned groups or individuals because the evidence is still evolving, each person is different with a unique genetic makeup, most of our evidence is observational, many studies have been conducted with different probabilities given for results, and finally, studies are being conducted in multiple settings (e.g. ER vs ICU vs. others; various countries, different racial/age/gender groups and systems). So, an exact number or ratio for the probability of death cannot be accurately given for the aforementioned conditions, but we can confidently say that these conditions increase the risk of death in individuals who get infected with COVID-19. The consistency across studies provides reasonable evidence to say that these risk factors certainly elevate the risk of death or serious outcomes (e.g. hospitalizations, intubation and artificial ventilation, and post-acute organ system disorders)."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Doctor had just vaccinated a young female patient in the hospital.

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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