Majority of U.S. COVID-19 fatalities had underlying medical conditions

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Early on in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, there was little data on the virus and how it affects the body. As the virus spread across the globe, data showed that some people were at a higher risk of developing severe disease and dying from the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection.

The high-risk individuals are those who are older than 65 years old, those who have weakened immune systems, and those with underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, and lung disease, among others.

Now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a majority of deaths in the United States tied to COVID-19 had contributing conditions or comorbidities.

Image Credit: Terelyuk /  Shutterstock
Image Credit: Terelyuk / Shutterstock

The report

The report, released by the CDC, shows how many Americans who have died from COVID-19 also had other contributing conditions. According to the report, only 6 percent of deaths listed COVID-19 as the only cause, revealing that 94 percent of the patients who have died from the infection also had other underlying health conditions.

“For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned. For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death. The number of deaths with each condition or cause is shown for all deaths and by age groups,” the CDC reported.

The report also shows that the top underlying medical conditions associated with COVID-19 deaths among people in the United States, where the highest number of infections and deaths were reported. The U.S. has topped 6 million confirmed cases and more than 183,500 deaths.

The top underlying health conditions include influenza and pneumonia, respiratory failure, hypertensive disease, diabetes, vascular and unspecified dementia, cardiac arrest, heart failure, renal failure, intentions or unintentional injury like poisoning, and other medical conditions.

Researchers tabulated the deaths received and coded as of the date of analysis, and these do not represent all deaths that happened in the period. Further, the CDC explains that the data used in the toll are tabulated from death certificates, which provide the most complete and accurate source of data. Death certificates contain information that is not available in other documents and includes comorbid conditions, place of death, race, and ethnicity.

“Data for this table are derived from a cut of the NVSS database taken at a particular time, separate from other surveillance tables on this page which are tabulated on the date of update,” CDC emphasized.

The number of conditions reported in this table are tabulated from deaths received and coded as of the date of analysis and do not represent all deaths that occurred in that period. As a result, the total number of COVID-19 deaths in this table may not match other surveillance tables on this page,” it added.

What are comorbidities?

The CDC reports that comorbidity is more than one disease or condition that is present in the same person at the same time. These conditions are often chronic or long-term diseases, which are also called comorbid conditions, multimorbidity, multiple chronic conditions, or coexisting conditions.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC said that recent data has shown that the increased risk of COVID-19 severe disease or even death in people with other conditions. Further, people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at a heightened risk for severe illness from the coronavirus infection. The conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, immunocompromised people, those who underwent organ transplant, obesity, sickle cell disease, severe heart conditions, and type 2 diabetes.

Some individuals may be at an increased risk from COVID-19 infection if they have asthma, cerebrovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, high blood pressure, HIV, immune deficiencies, dementia, liver disease, smoking, pregnancy, pulmonary fibrosis, thalassemia, and type 1 diabetes.

Globally, the number of recorded infections has surpassed 25.4 million, with over 849,000 lives lost.

Journal reference:
Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.


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