The novel Coronavirus is extremely serious and life-threatening to some that contract it. The virus is spreading so quickly because it is new, so humans have no immunity to it yet. Additionally, there are people who are more at risk of catching the virus than others.
In the absence of vaccine or treatment medications, nonpharmaceutical interventions become the most important response strategy. These are community interventions that can reduce the impact of the disease.
The risk of a virus depends on the characteristics of that virus, according to The Centers for Disease Control. Characteristics include how well it spreads between people, the severity of resulting illness, and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccines or medications that can treat the illness) and the relative success of these.
When there is no vaccine or treatment medication available, nonpharmaceutical responses, such as community intervention, are the most effective strategy for reducing the impact of the disease.
Nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) include practicing social distancing, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, washing your hands frequently, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces in your home.
The CDC breaks down risk into two categories: risk exposure and risk of severe illness or death.
Who is at higher risk of being exposed to Coronavirus?
According to the CDC, the immediate risk of being exposed to this virus is still low for most Americans, but that risk will increase as the outbreak expands.
People with a higher risk of being exposed to the virus are:
- Those who live in places with ongoing community spread of the virus are at an elevated risk.
- Healthcare workers who are caring for patients with COVID-19 are at an elevated risk of exposure.
- Those who have close contact with persons with COVID-19 are at an elevated risk of exposure.
- Those who have traveled to an affected international location where community spread is occurring are at an elevated risk of exposure, with level of risk dependent on where they traveled.
It’s important to remember that even if you don’t fall into one of these categories, you can still contract the virus, which is why it is important to practice nonpharmaceutical interventions like social distancing.
Who is at high risk of becoming severely ill?
According to early information out of China, there are groups of people that are at higher risk of getting severely sick or even dying from COVID-19.
Those people are:
- Older adults (risk increases in line with age)
- People with weakened immune systems:
- Those undergoing cancer treatment
- People being treated for autoimmune diseases like lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, or inflammatory bowel diseases
- Those with HIV
- Those having an organ or bone-marrow transplant
- People with serious chronic medical conditions:
- Chronic respiratory disease (lung disease or asthma)
- Heart disease
- Hypertension (High blood pressure)
A study that examined the situation in Wuhan estimated that for those aged 15 to 44, the fatality rate was 0.5%, though it might have been as low as 0.1% or as high as 1.3%.
For people 45 to 64, the fatality rate was also 0.5%, with a possible low of 0.2% and a possible high of 1.1%.
Fatality rates for those over 64 was 2.7%, with a low and high estimate of 1.5% and 4.7%.
It’s important to remember that just because you are less likely to become severely ill does not mean that it can’t happen.
Are pregnant women at a higher risk of catching Coronavirus?
It is not yet known if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public nor whether they are more likely to have serious illness as a result, according to the CDC.
Pregnant women do experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections, and with viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, pregnant women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness.
Are children at a higher risk of catching Coronavirus?
According to the CDC, based on evidence so far, children are not at higher risk of catching COVID-19 than adults. There have been some infants and children sick with the virus, but adults actually make up the majority of cases to date.