Health Check: Who is More Susceptible to COVID-19?

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The disease brought on by the coronavirus infection, COVID-19, continues to sweep across the country, with the number of cases now closer to 400. While people who have a travel history are especially vulnerable to catching the disease, there are other people who are at risk for severe cases of the infection. If you belong to these groups of people, it’s important to pay closer attention to your health:

Elderly

Although much isn’t known yet about Covid-19, what doctors observed is that the risk goes higher when a person is around 50 years old and up. The changes in the immune system are the reason behind this. As people age, the body’s capacity to fight infection weakens. It produces fewer immune cells, including white blood cells, and the ones it does generate don’t exactly communicate with one another well. As a result, an elderly person is more likely to get sick and recover from infections more slowly.

This doesn’t mean, however, that your parents and grandparents are bound to get the disease. If they live an active, healthy lifestyle, their risk is lower than their peers who have existing medical conditions. Generally, persons with co-morbidities seem to be more susceptible to the disease, so seniors should stay updated on their health to see if there are any underlying issues that may make them more prone to the disease. 

Pregnant

Since the novel coronavirus is a new strain, there’s little information yet about its implications on pregnant women. What medical experts know is that pregnant women experience drastic changes in their bodies, which make them more vulnerable to infections. Similar to elderly people, the body’s defense mechanism changes to protect both you and the baby. Some parts of the immune system get a boost, while others are suppressed. These adjustments may increase the risk of infections.

There’s no scientific evidence pointing to a greater probability of miscarriage or transmission of infection to the growing fetus when you test positive for Covid-19. It’s important, however, to observe self-quarantine if you experience mild symptoms to reduce the spread of the disease.

People with Lung Problems

Covid-19 mainly targets the respiratory tract–the nose, throat, and lungs–resulting in fever and a cough. This is why people who have lung problems, such as those who have asthma, may experience flare-ups when they catch the virus, which then develops into pneumonia. 

People who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD are also at risk for severe cases of Covid-19. While COPD triggers long-term breathing problems, the coronavirus infection may exacerbate the symptom and cause death.

People with HIV

There’s no definite information yet about Covid-19 and HIV. But based on observations, people who have the latter are more likely to catch respiratory infections in general if they have a low CD4 cell count (infection-fighting white blood cells) and if they are not on treatment, according to the CDC. Again, this points to a compromised immune system as the primary culprit.

Previously, doctors have considered the possibility of using HIV drugs in treating Covid-19. Both infections require an enzyme called protease, making the virus contagious. HIV medicines help in disabling protease. According to recent reports though, the drugs didn’t work as a Covid-19 treatment in a clinical trial.

Reducing Risk

If you’re among the groups of people listed here, don’t panic. This does not mean you’ll automatically get Covid-19. It’s possible to prevent the development of the disease. The key is to avoid exposure, since there’s no available vaccine yet. Here are some precautionary measures to follow:

  • Observe social distancing. If possible, stay indoors all the time. Remember, the virus spreads mainly through direct contact with the infected.
  • Wash your hands regularly. Hands catch so many microbes every minute that it’s possible you may have touched contaminated surfaces. Follow the 20-second duration when cleaning your hands. Avoid touching your face with unclean hands.
  • Disinfect your home. Use the right cleaning materials on frequently touched surfaces, including doorknobs, stairway rails, and light switches. If a person at home falls ill, make sure to disinfect your shared bathroom every time they use it.

If you yourself are sick, call your doctor for an appointment. Monitor symptoms. Watch out especially for fever, cough, runny nose, tiredness, and difficulty breathing. Avoid close contact with people living in your home. Wear a mask when going outdoors.

Are you susceptible to the coronavirus infection? If you are, take extra precautions in keeping yourself healthy. Don’t slack off on your prescribed medicine, if any, and make sure that you follow general precautionary guidelines. Meanwhile, if you’re living with someone who’s at risk, monitor their health closely. Look out for them.

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