Coronavirus has now affected upwards of a million people and killed more than 55,000 people across the globe. Among the 55,000, many have underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, cancer, and so on.
Based on initial clinical reports, more than 80 percent of COVID-19 only result in mild illness. Increased morbidity is mostly seen in elderly people. But it has now come to attention that younger people with chronic illness may be affected more severely than the elder population.
The concept that coronavirus is fatal only to the elderly comes from the heavy focus on the mortality rate of COVID-19, which was found to be higher in aging populations. Although elderly people definitely have higher chances of succumbing to the illness, that does not mean the younger population is safe.
In fact, evidence suggests COVID-19 to be 10 times more fatal than the seasonal flu for people under age 50. Furthermore, death is not the only bad outcome of COVID-19 as some young adults suffer from a severe illness that can have life-altering consequences.
A study of 1,099 coronavirus patients found 60 percent of mild to moderate cases are in teens and adults between 15 to 49 years old. This finding suggests that this group is less vulnerable to the virus.
But there are many younger adults who still are extremely vulnerable and reports of death in teenagers from COVID-19 are not uncommon. Of the total 163 life-threatening cases described in the study, 41 % were young adults, 31 % were aged 50 to 64, and 27 % were above 65. So what makes some younger adults more susceptible to die from COVID-19? Chronic underlying conditions such as leukemia, HIV, Type 1 Diabetes, Asthma, Lupus, Congenital Heart Disease, etc. drastically worsen COVID-19 infection.
“The death rate from this outbreak is high. We shouldn’t categorize it by young or senior,” stated Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization. “We cannot say that we care about millions when we don’t care about an individual who may be senior or junior … Every individual life matters.”
Diabetes, Hypertension and Cardiovascular Diseases
The novel coronavirus destroys the lungs, but the worst outcomes from COVID-19’s are related to its effects on the heart.
In the United States, high blood pressure and diabetes are commonplace conditions with one in 10 Americans suffering from either one or both metabolic disorders. Hypertension and blood pressure both are serious risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Nearly half the adults in the United States have high blood pressure.
According to the American College Of Cardiology, there have been reports of acute cardiac injury, arrhythmias, hypotension, tachycardia, and a high proportion of concomitant cardiovascular disease in COVID-19 infected individuals, particularly those who require more intensive care.
The CDC and the AHA have strongly advised cardiac patients including those with congenital heart diseases, Diabetes, and hypertension to take additional precautions as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. Extra measures include self-isolation, flu vaccination, early identification, and treatment of bacterial pneumonia.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus
HIV severely weakens the immune system making it more susceptible to all types of infections. However, Anti Retroviral treatment which comprises of taking one tablet a day can lower the HIV levels to an insignificant number and prevent it from taking a toll in the immune system. For HIV patients, it is extremely important to regularly take their ART drugs and routinely check their CD4 count.
Asthma patients need to be prepared at all times as any conditions as minor as the flu can have life-threatening acute exacerbations. Patients with known chronic respiratory illness should avoid all unnecessary travel and practice enhanced hygiene.
Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy are highly prone to infections as the anti-cancer drugs severely weaken the immune system.
“Patients who have had cancer treatment in the past may also remain immunologically compromised even though they appear to have recovered,” said J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. Cancer patients under chemotherapy or any other form of therapy need to practice social distancing and augmented hygiene practices. Receiving influenza vaccines is also important to prevent co-infection.