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What’s an underlying health condition? Does it increase my risk of getting sick?

Viral Hepatitis Coordinator Kim Desmarais
by Kim Steele-Peter03/27/2020 11:02 a.m.
Updated: 03/27/2020

Underlying and chronic health conditions put people at greater risk from COVID-19. If you have an underlying condition, you are more likely to get sick, and you might have more severe symptoms if you do.

What is an underlying condition?

We don’t yet know how COVID-19 interacts with individual illnesses and medical conditions. But early data show some underlying conditions increase the severity of symptoms in COVID-19 cases. 

A healthcare provider uses a stethoscope on a patient

The CDC identified some health conditions that may put you at greater risk including:

  • Heart disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Lung disease.
  • HIV.
  • Asthma. 
  • Pregnancy. 
  • Auto-immune disorders.
  • Recent surgery.
  • Cancer treatment.
  • Severe obesity.

We’re still learning about how COVID-19 spreads and affects people with different health conditions. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and shares similarities with other respiratory conditions. 

If you have a respiratory  condition, you might be at greater risk for COVID-19 and have more severe symptoms.

Consider your personal health.

Other personal health factors can increase your risk. Habits like drinking, smoking or vaping may increase your chances of getting sick. Long-term use of corticosteroids, cancer treatments and bone or organ transplants can all weaken your immune system.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your health conditions if you are unsure what your risk is. Continue to take prescribed medications as directed.
If you know you are at greater risk of getting sick, take extra steps to keep yourself healthy and safe. Follow social distancing guidance and wash your hands frequently. Sleep 7-9 hours every night and drink plenty of fluids. If you have housemates, come up with a plan to safely isolate if someone in your home begins showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Viral Hepatitis Coordinator Kim Desmarais

by Kim Steele-Peter

Kim leads our efforts to identify and follow up on hepatitis activity in our communities.


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