Mar 11, 2020 - Health

Who's most at risk from coronavirus

A nurse cares for a patient in a hospital intensive care unit with a blood machine in the foreground.

A nurse cares for a COVID-19 patient in China. Photo: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A federal recommendation to restrict nursing home visitors is a reminder that some groups of people are more susceptible to catch the new coronavirus.

The bottom line: Adults aged 60 and older, people who have underlying health problems, people who have compromised immune systems and health care workers have higher chances of getting sick and dying, and should take extra precautions.

State of play: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have said older adults and people who have chronic conditions like heart and lung disease face higher risks of getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

  • People with weak or compromised immune systems also face heightened risks.
  • This includes those who recently had organ or bone marrow transplants, who are undergoing chemotherapy, who have HIV and who have rarer immune system deficiencies.
  • "There's not enough information on these patients," said Aruna Subramanian, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford Health Care who focuses on immunocompromised patients. "We always worry they will have a worse outcome because their body can't fight against viral infections."

The intrigue: People who have immune system conditions don't always register fevers, one of the main symptoms of the coronavirus, and that's raising concerns that some are not getting the necessary testing.

  • John Boyle, the head of the Immune Deficiency Foundation, wrote this week that some "members of our community who, even though their doctors wanted it, have been denied testing because they did not have a fever that met the testing standard."

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