This Makes You "Much More" Likely to Die, Virus Expert Says
COVID-19 cases are rising again across the U.S., and experts are warning against complacency—especially as the BA.2 subvariant is still a very real threat. "Everyone has stopped talking about getting rid of COVID," says epidemiologist Dr. Elizabeth Halloran at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. "It's not going away, and that means it's going to be endemic." Here are five things that make COVID-19 especially dangerous, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Extensive research shows that smoking significantly raises the risk of developing serious complications from the COVID-19 virus. "Smokers have up to a 50 percent higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19, so quitting is the best thing smokers can do to lower their risk from this coronavirus, as well as the risk of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses," says World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
People with diabetes are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, doctors say—according to one study, 30% of people who died of Covid-19 in the U.K. had diabetes. "Once someone with diabetes or obesity became infected with Covid-19, then their outcomes were generally not as good," says endocrinologist Daniel Drucker, MD, of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto. "They were more likely to be hospitalized, more likely to be intubated, more likely to have higher rates of death."
Being overweight or obese significantly raises your risk of COVID-19 complications and outcomes, even if you're young, doctors warn. "We didn't understand early on what a major risk factor obesity was. … It's not until more recently that we've realized the devastating impact of obesity, particularly in younger people," says Anne Dixon, a physician-scientist who studies obesity and lung disease at the University of Vermont. "[That] may be one reason for the devastating impact of COVID-19 in the United States, where 40% of adults are obese."
Not Being Vaccinated
"The vast majority of patients — anywhere from 75% and greater — we're seeing is primarily unvaccinated individuals who are getting COVID and wind up in the hospital severely ill and are currently dying," says Dr. Mahdee Sobhanie, assistant professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases physician at The Ohio State University.
Not Being Boosted
Make sure you stay up to date with your COVID-19 boosters—according to the CDC, boosted Americans are 97 times less likely to die of the virus. "What we're starting to see is many people who've gotten that third shot, four or five, six months after it, and we do know that you may very well have waning of protection," says CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. "But we also know that for the people who have had waning, the people who are most susceptible to severe disease, are our older populations and those with underlying comorbidities."
How to Stay Safe Out There
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.