Roundup: Obesity's Link to Severe COVID-19 Illness; Health Officials Urge Use of Masks; and Latest on Pregnancy and Coronavirus

CDC: Obesity Now Most Common U.S. Health Condition to Raise Risk of Severe COVID-19 Illness

After reviewing published reports, pre-print studies, and various other data sources, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that it has updated its list of underlying medical conditions that increase risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

CDC experts say they determined if there was “clear, mixed, or limited evidence that the condition increased a person’s risk for severe illness, regardless of age.”

While an estimated 60 percent of U.S. adults have at least one chronic medical condition, obesity is the most common on the updated list of underlying conditions that increase one’s risk for severe illness. About 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese. The more underlying medical conditions people have, the higher their risk.

Being obese means you have too much body fat — more than enough to do harm to your health. Obesity is usually based on your body mass index (BMI), which you can check using a BMI calculator or duing an annual physical with your primary care physician. BMI compares your weight to your height. If your BMI is 25 to 29.9, you’re overweight but not obese. A BMI of 30 or more is in the obese range.

Here is the updated full list of underlying health issues:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

“Understanding who is most at risk for severe illness helps people make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D. “While we are all at risk for COVID-19, we need to be aware of who is susceptible to severe complications so that we take appropriate measures to protect their health and well-being.”

Top U.S. Health Officials Urge All Americans to Wear Masks or Face Coverings

All Americans — especially younger adults — should wear masks to curtail the spread of COVID-19 as case numbers surge across the nation, a top U.S. health official told Congress this week.

Robert Redfield, M.D., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told a U.S. Senate committee hearing on the coronavirus that it’s “critical” that Americans “take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings.”

His comments were aimed at young people, many of whom are increasingly testing positive for COVID-19. Young adults are more likely to be asymptomatic, and unknowingly contribute to community spread.

“Specifically, I’m addressing the younger members of our society, the millennials and the Generation Zs — I ask those that are listening to spread the word,” Dr. Redfield said.

The CDC urges everyone to wear a cloth face cover in public, primarily in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Deborah Birx, M.D., the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, has said there’s increasing evidence that masks, or cloth face coverings, help prevent the wearer from becoming infected as well.

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., the nation’s top infectious disease expert and also a member of the coronavirus task force, also spoke to the Senate committee and urged all Americans to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“We are all in this together,” Dr. Fauci said. “We recommend masks for everyone on the outside, anyone who comes into contact in a crowded area. You should avoid crowds where possible and when you’re outside and not have the capability of maintaining distance, you should wear a mask at all times.”

Pregnant Women at Risk for Serious COVID-19 Illness, CDC Says in New Report

Pregnant women might be at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, compared to women who are not expecting, states the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pregnant women who get infected are more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to an intensive care unit and put on a ventilator, the CDC stated in new research published last week. But the new study of 8,207 pregnant women with confirmed COVID-19 infections did not find a significant increased risk of death.

The new data has limitations, health officials concede. Primarily, it is not clear if the pregnant women were hospitalized because of complications related to COVID-19, or if they were hospitalized for pregnancy-related reasons and just happened to also have coronavirus.

Researchers found that more than 31 percent of pregnant women who had coronavirus were hospitalized, compared to 6 percent of nonpregnant women.

To reduce severe COVID-19–associated illness, pregnant women should be aware of their potential risk for severe coronavirus illness, the CDC says.

The CDC has previously stated: “Although there are currently no data showing that COVID-19 affects pregnant people differently than others, we do know that pregnant people are at greater risk of getting sick from other respiratory viruses than people who are not pregnant.”

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