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CDC: Impact of Underlying Health Conditions Among COVID-19 Patients

Mar 31, 2020 3:45 pm

The March 31 release of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) reviews the impact of several key comorbidities, most commonly diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease, as cofactors leading to worse outcomes with COVID-19 infections.  Below are experts from that report.

March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic (1). As of March 28, 2020, a total of 571,678 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 26,494 deaths have been reported worldwide (2). Reports from China and Italy suggest that risk factors for severe disease include older age and the presence of at least one of several underlying health conditions (3,4).

U.S. older adults, including those aged ≥65 years and particularly those aged ≥85 years, also appear to be at higher risk for severe COVID-19–associated outcomes; however, data describing underlying health conditions among U.S. COVID-19 patients have not yet been reported (5).

As of March 28, 2020, U.S. states and territories have reported 122,653 U.S. COVID-19 cases to CDC, including 7,162 (5.8%) for whom data on underlying health conditions and other known risk factors for severe outcomes from respiratory infections were reported.

Among these 7,162 cases, 2,692 (37.6%) patients had one or more underlying health condition or risk factor, and 4,470 (62.4%) had none of these conditions reported. The percentage of COVID-19 patients with at least one underlying health condition or risk factor was higher among those requiring intensive care unit (ICU) admission (358 of 457, 78%) and those requiring hospitalization without ICU admission (732 of 1,037, 71%) than that among those who were not hospitalized (1,388 of 5,143, 27%).

As of March 28, 2020, a total of 122,653 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases (Figure) and 2,112 deaths were reported to CDC. Approximately one third of these patients (2,692, 37.6%), had at least one underlying condition or risk factor. Diabetes mellitus (784, 10.9%), chronic lung disease (656, 9.2%), and cardiovascular disease (647, 9.0%) were the most frequently reported conditions among all cases.

Among 457 ICU admissions and 1,037 non-ICU hospitalizations, 358 (78%) and 732 (71%), respectively occurred among persons with one or more reported underlying health condition. In contrast, 1,388 of 5,143 (27%) COVID-19 patients who were not hospitalized were reported to have at least one underlying health condition.

Among patients aged ≥19 years, the percentage of non-ICU hospitalizations was higher among those with underlying health conditions (27.3%–29.8%) than among those without underlying health conditions (7.2%–7.8%); the percentage of cases that resulted in an ICU admission was also higher for those with underlying health conditions (13.3%–14.5%) than those without these conditions (2.2%–2.4%) (Table 2).

Small numbers of COVID-19 patients aged

It is not yet known whether the severity or level of control of underlying health conditions affects the risk for severe disease associated with COVID-19. Many of these underlying health conditions are common in the United States: based on self-reported 2018 data, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes among U.S. adults was 10.1% (7), and the U.S. age-adjusted prevalence of all types of heart disease (excluding hypertension without other heart disease) was 10.6% in 2017 (8). The age-adjusted prevalence of COPD among U.S. adults is 5.9% (9), and in 2018, the U.S. estimated prevalence of current asthma among persons of all ages was 7.9% (7). CDC continues to develop and update resources for persons with underlying health conditions to reduce the risk of acquiring COVID-19 (10). The estimated higher prevalence of these conditions among those in this early group of U.S. COVID-19 patients and the potentially higher risk for more severe disease from COVID-19 associated with the presence of underlying conditions highlight the importance of COVID-19 prevention in persons with underlying conditions.

Persons in the United States with underlying health conditions appear to be at higher risk for more severe COVID-19, consistent with findings from other countries. Persons with underlying health conditions who have symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should immediately contact their health care provider. These persons should take steps to protect themselves from COVID-19, through washing their hands; cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces; and social distancing, including staying at home, avoiding crowds, gatherings, and travel, and avoiding contact with persons who are ill. Maintaining at least a 30-day supply of medication, a 2-week supply of food and other necessities, and knowledge of COVID-19 symptoms are recommended for those with underlying health conditions (10).

All persons should take steps to protect themselves from COVID-19 and to protect others. All persons who are ill should stay home, except to get medical care; should not go to work; and should stay away from others. This is especially important for those who work with persons with underlying conditions or who otherwise are at high risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19. Community mitigation strategies, which aim to slow the spread of COVID-19, are important to protect all persons from COVID-19, especially persons with underlying health conditions and other persons at risk for severe COVID-19–associated disease ( icon).

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

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