In a new study, researchers found that having an underlying health condition might be one of the biggest risk factors for developing severe COVID-19.
Those conditions include diseases that strike people of all ages, including asthma and diabetes, along with heart disease and lung disease.
They examined a group of U.S. adult COVID-19 patients and found about 75% of people who wound up in the hospital had at least one underlying health issue.
The research was conducted by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the study, the team found among 457 patients who were admitted to intensive care, 78% had other health conditions, while 71% of 732 patients admitted to the hospital, but not intensive care, had at least one other health issue.
Among all hospitalized COVID-19 adult patients with complete information on underlying conditions or risk factors, 184 deaths occurred.
Of those, 173 (94%) involved patients with at least one underlying condition.
The team says those health conditions are quite common among Americans.
In 2018, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes among U.S. adults was just over 10%, while the prevalence of heart disease was 10.6% in 2017.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) among U.S. adults was almost 6% and the prevalence of asthma among persons of all ages was nearly 8% in 2018.
The researchers say that patients with chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are at higher risk for admission, as well as respiratory failure.
Patients with asthma, COPD, as well as sleep apnea are at elevated risk for adverse outcomes including pneumonia and subsequent intubation.
Although underlying conditions can be a big player in COVID-19 severity, many young adults mistakenly believe that only older people are affected by the coronavirus.
This is a misconception that can put themselves and others at risk.
The team says young adults need to be aware that while their risk of death if they contract COVID-19 is lower than for older adults, they can spread the illness to their more vulnerable parents, grandparents and other loved ones.
High-risk people need to take social distancing seriously to avoid contracting the coronavirus.
The lead author of the study is researcher Nancy Chow.
The study is published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
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