The demographics of COVID-19 cases are spread across all age groups, race, genders and nationalities. While the virus does not discriminate on such grounds, unfortunately, several infected people fall under the category of high-risk individuals. This fraction of the global population is exposed to a higher probability of contracting the virus and sometimes with complications like pneumonia, organ failure and in some cases death.
Most people are under the impression that COVID-19 is just like the common flu as it shows common symptoms initially. This perception grew because most infected people, around 96 per cent, were experiencing only mild symptoms.
Good thing is, now we know much more about this novel virus than we did 3 months ago. Let’s explore which factors can actually be responsible for landing you up in a high-risk category.
Which are the high-risk categories for contracting the coronavirus?
If you are keeping up with the news or updates by the WHO and the CDC it is easy to find data related to the increasing number of people getting infected or dying from the COVID-19. While some fraction recovers, others end up with severe symptoms.
Patients with severe symptoms eventually need to be hospitalized and have to be put in the intensive care unit or on ventilators. Several new studies and data collected indicate that the following people fall under such a high-risk category of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
People 65 years or older
The countries which are severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic are ones that have some of the highest numbers of older people. Spain and Italy are very good examples to look at. As much as 95 percent of the deaths in these countries have had a demographic of 60 years and older.
It is roughly the same case for the United States, which is now the epicentre of the pandemic. The percentage of people who need hospitalization and admission to ICU is higher among older people. For example, as much as 31-59% of the people aged between 65 and 84 years need hospitalization. And as for fatalities, 8 out of 10 deaths in the US are aged 65 years or older.
Why are they at higher risk?
With biological ageing, the ability of the body to fight infections naturally decreases. This is because, with every passing year, the number of T-cells (cells responsible for fighting viruses and other infections) in the body drops.
And the ones that are left, are also not very vigilant to invaders. Other physiological changes associated with ageing like an increase in blood pressure and changes in the metabolism make the body less competent to COVID-19 infections.
Such changes, more than often, lead to multimorbidity. This means the occurrence of two or more chronic conditions in the body. And unfortunately, multimorbidity is a rule rather than an exception in older people aged 65 years or above. All these factors make the coronavirus more severe and even fatal for the elderly population.
People with Underlying medical conditions
Most people with underlying conditions are the elderly. But then there is also a large population of people in the world that suffer from chronic medical conditions. This is why around 90 percent of the people that are hospitalized in the US, due to COVID-19 have one or the other underlying health issue like:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Lung disease or asthma
- Chronic kidney disease
Why are they at higher risk of COVID-19?
Patients suffering from one or the other health problem have a higher risk of complications due to COVID-19. This is because their body and immune system is already compromised. And in such a case, fighting another disease, especially a novel virus can be very challenging for the body.
However, in some cases, the virus may trigger an overreaction of the immune cells resulting in severe inflammation of the respiratory tract eventually making it hard for the patient to breathe on their own.
People in the frontlines
Along with the elderly and people with health conditions, the ones that stand at a high probability of contracting the virus are the people who are working at the frontlines. These include healthcare officials, policemen, delivery executives and everyone who is working day and night to protect the larger population from the pandemic. And according to the CDC, more than 9200 health care professionals have tested positive for COVID-19.
Why are they at higher risk?
People working with COVID-19 infected patients are always exposed to the virus. Sometimes even protective gear and other precautions don’t help. These professionals are operating at their full potential right now for the safety of others. This only adds on to the long working hours, stress, anxiety and lack of a decent sleep schedule thereby affecting the immune system So their risk of contracting the coronavirus is quite high.
How to stay protected?
Scientists and medical institutions all around the world are working day and night to create a vaccine that can cure the coronavirus. But, the truth is that we still don’t have a cure and so it’s best to follow all the safety protocols provided by health officials and the government in order to practise safety. And if you fall under any of the mentioned categories, it is even more important for you to stick to these COVID-19 preventive measures.
The virus is not harmful until it enters your body. Only then can it attack your cells and develop symptoms. So you must nip the virus in the bud. That is, reduce exposure. Here’s how you can do it.
COVID-19 can spread directly from the respiratory droplets and touch of the infected people. And indirectly through contaminated surfaces. So your best bet at keeping the virus at bay is to avoid exposure to either of these modes of transmission. And social distancing can help you achieve this goal.
You can practice social distancing by avoiding social gatherings, crowded places and public transport. If you do meet people, maintain a distance of at least six feet. And follow the orders of the authorities. Every government is putting lockdowns and asking citizens to quarantine in their homes as a measure of social distancing. So stay indoors and stay safe.
For people who are the most vulnerable and at high risk of having complications, the best option is a more developed version of social distancing called cocooning. This means that you should stay away from any human interaction even when it comes to the people who you share your home with.
Avoid any sort of face to face communication until absolutely necessary. If you do feel the need for some social interaction, get digital. Make use of your phones and the internet and video call your loved ones.
Disinfecting you home
Cross-contamination of the virus can happen more easily than you would expect. A trip to the supermarket or a walk in the park is the easiest way of catching the virus on the hand, clothes, bags and most importantly your mobile phones. And once you enter your home, the COVID-19 virus transfers from such objects to other places in your abode.
This is why it is important to disinfect your home with EPA registered disinfectants. It is a very ideal thing to do especially when you live with a sick or elderly person. Clean all surfaces and most importantly the frequently touched places like doorknobs, handrails and kitchen counters.
Remember that this novel virus enters your body through the mucous membranes located in your mouth, nose and eyes. Now you may wonder how does it reach these areas? With your hands. An individual touches his or her face at least 23 times in an hour. And after all the places your hands may have touched, this frequency is very high for contracting the virus.
So as a safety measure, you must wash your hands with soap and water as frequently as possible. And make sure that you rub all the crevices of your hand for at least 20 seconds. In case you don’t have access to soap and water, use a sanitizer with more than 60 percent alcohol. Cover every corner of your hand with the sanitizer after coming in contact with objects that are frequently touched by people.
Wear protective gear
Before coming in contact with people, remember to wear protective gear like masks and gloves. These days it is a very good idea to wear a mask and gloves whenever going out of the house. While it is best to stay at home, there may be emergencies that make you go outside which are unavoidable.
For example, getting groceries or getting a refill for your prescription at the pharmacy. Nonetheless, if you can’t get things done online and have to head out, remember that a mask and gloves are your best friends.
Proper supply of medications
If you are suffering from a medical condition make sure that you are regular with your medicine doses. To ensure a proper supply of medicine ask your medicine supplier or pharmacist to provide you with extra medications to reduce the number of trips you make to restock.
Or if you can, opt for home deliveries. Same is the case if you are a medical cannabis user. You can easily see a doctor and get a medical marijuana card online. You can easily order cannabis products online and get them delivered at your doorstep.
Stay in touch with your healthcare provider
It is important that you take proper care of your health condition during this time. While you must avoid non-essential health checkups make sure you see a doctor when necessary. The US government is now pushing for telemedicine laws more than ever, so seeing a doctor online is very much possible these days. Do not delay your important treatments and check-ups due to the pandemic.
Avoid triggering situations
Most medical conditions such as depression, anxiety and asthma become severe in overwhelming situations. In such cases, it is important to stay away from such triggers. This includes the local news and rumors that circulate in social media or the internet. Rather practice meditation, play with your pets and have a good night’s sleep to maintain a calm and relaxing environment around yourself.
Support your immune system
It is important that you make sure to keep your immune system healthy during this pandemic. Have a nutritious diet and drink lots of water. Also, consume a good share of probiotics to keep your gut healthy. And remember to get enough physical exercise. You can start a new workout or take online dance classes. Also, make sure to avoid smoking, alcohol and stress. As all of them can suppress your immune system.
The battle against COVID-19 is one that we have to fight together for the sake of the compromised population as well for others. It is also important to understand that there is no one age group with zero deaths until now. So no one is safe or totally free from developing severe symptoms or contacting the disease.
So whether you fall under the high-risk category or not. You must diligently practice all the safety precautions. Because self-care is the most effective way of protecting oneself and others.
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