Many patients who come to the emergency department for any number of complaints like so many of us have COVID on the mind and they ask the question, who are these high risk patients and what makes them so high risk?
Well, the answers are not quite so simple because we still don’t quite understand all that we need to about how COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) affects individuals and why some get sick and some don’t. But what we do understand is that it appears that there are certain high risk populations who are at risk, not just for COVID-19, but this is the same group of individuals who are at greater risk for influenza and a host of other viral respiratory infections.
Those individuals over the age of 70 seem to be at greater risk. They represent by far the largest group of individuals who have severe complications and they represent the greatest number of patients who have died when infected with COVID-19. Patients with complicated preexisting medical conditions, poorly controlled hypertension, uncontrolled diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease, COPD, asthma, emphysema, and a host of other lung diseases, patients that smoke cigarettes who probably have an underlying lung disease and have not yet been diagnosed – all of those individuals are at greater risk. Additionally, patients who are under chemotherapeutic agents or immunotherapy for cancer or have some other reason to have a compromised immune system, those individuals are also at greatest risk and even though they represent a smaller percentage, the concern is that there are a large number of minimally symptomatic or even asymptomatic individuals who can unwittingly transmit the virus to those in the high risk group.
That’s why it’s important and incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we are practicing social distancing, we are washing our hands vigorously with either hand sanitizer with 60% or greater alcohol content, washing our hands with warm soap and water for 20 seconds or more, while we’re cleaning the surfaces that we touch with our hands, while we’re avoiding touching our faces as best we can, and while we’re keeping ourselves separated from those who may not be sick, when we ourselves feel sick. We want to try to keep the entire community safe. And while we may only have mild symptoms, there are those among us who are at greater risk for getting very sick if they contract this potentially deadly virus. Let’s all do our part to keep everybody healthy and safe while we ride this storm out during this pandemic.