List of People at Risk of Severe COVID-19 Illness Expanded: CDC

Atlanta, GA–Based on a detailed review of available evidence to date, CDC has updated and expanded the list of who is at increased risk for getting severely ill from COVID-19.

Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions remain at increased risk for severe illness, but now CDC has further defined age- and condition-related risks.

COVID-19 risk related to age

CDC has removed the specific age threshold from the older adult classification. CDC now warns that among adults, risk increases steadily as you age, and it’s not just those over the age of 65 who are at increased risk for severe illness.

Recent data, including an MMWR published last week, has shown that the older people are, the higher their risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Age is an independent risk factor for severe illness, but risk in older adults is also in part related to the increased likelihood that older adults also have underlying medical conditions.

COVID-19 risk related to underlying medical conditions

CDC also updated the list of underlying medical conditions that increase risk of severe illness after reviewing published reports, pre-print studies, and various other data sources. CDC experts then determined if there was clear, mixed, or limited evidence that the condition increased a person’s risk for severe illness, regardless of age.

There was consistent evidence (from multiple small studies or a strong association from a large study) that specific conditions increase a person’s risk of severe COVID-19 illness:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

These changes increase the number of people who fall into higher risk groups. An estimated 60 percent of American adults have at least one chronic medical condition. Obesity is one of the most common underlying conditions that increases one’s risk for severe illness – with about 40 percent of U.S. adults having obesity.  The more underlying medical conditions people have, the higher their risk.

CDC also clarified the list of other conditions that might increase a person’s risk of severe illness, including additions such as asthma, high blood pressure, neurologic conditions such as dementia, cerebrovascular disease such as stroke, and pregnancy.

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