Here, we take you through the eight underlying health conditions that put you at higher risk of getting coronavirus – and what to do if you have any of these conditions…
In general people with diabetes face greater risks of complications when dealing with viral infections like flu, and that is likely to be true with COVID-19.
This is because when glucose levels are fluctuating or elevated consistently, they have a lower immune response – meaning less protection against the bug.
Dan Howarth, Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said: “Coronavirus or COVID-19 can cause more severe symptoms and complications in people with diabetes.
“If you have diabetes and you have symptoms such as cough, high temperature and feeling short of breath you need to monitor your blood sugar closely and call the NHS 111 phone service.”
Most medics who treat diabetes seem to be emphasising basic hygiene and illness precautions, as well as doubling down on efforts to achieve good glucose control.
2. Heart disease
Based on early reports, 40 per cent of hospitalised Covid-19 patients had cardiovascular disease.
In particular, someone with an underlying heart issue is more likely to have a less robust immune system – meaning their body’s response is not as strong a response when exposed to viruses.
The bug’s main target is the lungs but that could affect the heart, especially a diseased heart, which has to work harder to get oxygenated blood throughout the body.
That could exacerbate problems for someone with heart failure, where the heart is already having problems pumping efficiently.
Asthma is a respiratory condition caused by inflammation of the breathing tubes that carry air to and from our lungs, and it currently affects several people across the US.
As coronavirus is an illness that affects the lungs and airways, this means asthma sufferers are more susceptible of getting the bug.
Emma Rubach, head of health advice at Asthma UK, said: “We know that the risk to people with asthma from viruses like coronavirus is higher than the general population, so we are encouraging people to make sure their asthma is well-managed.”
Asthma have also urged sufferers to keep taking their preventer inhaler (usually brown) daily as prescribed as this will help cut your risk of an asthma attack being triggered by any respiratory virus, including coronavirus.
Similarly, they say to carry their blue reliever inhaler with you every day, in case you feel your asthma symptoms flaring up.
4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
COPD is the name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties.
People with COPD are more prone to get coronavirus as they can have what we call a disruption of their epithelial lining — or damage to the cellular barrier that helps to protect the lungs — making it easier for viruses and illnesses to invade the rest of the body.
Experts urge sufferers take preventative measures such as staying away from those who are actively sick and continuing to take prescribed medication to optimise lung health.
Cancer patients are more susceptible to coronavirus due to their compromised immune system.
In particular, one well-known side effect of chemotherapy is to reduce white blood cell counts and induce a temporary state of reduced immune function.
And, as with any infection, the Covid-19 virus is more likely to progress at a greater speed in a cancer patient.
If a patient develops signs of infection, for example high temperature, coughing or shortness of breath, they should make contact with their oncology unit.
6. Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system – this causes lung infections and problems with digesting food.
People with cystic fibrosis are generally more likely to pick up infections, and more vulnerable to complications if they do develop an infection such as coronavirus.
Despite this, advice from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust states that there is currently no need for people with cystic fibrosis to limit their activities.
Professor Kevin Southern, from the UK’s Cystic Fibrosis Trust Medical Association, said: “It is important to continue to pursue a fit and healthy lifestyle and to be up to date with immunisations, including ‘flu’, even though this is a different virus.
“If a person with CF develops cold or ‘flu-like’ symptoms (muscle aches, fever etc), speak with your CF team about starting a recommended back-up antibiotic treatment.”
7. Primary Immunodeficiency (PID)
Primary immunodeficiencies are disorders in which part of the body’s immune system is missing or does not function normally.
This leaves them with reduced or no natural defence against germs such as bacteria, fungi and viruses – and that is likely to be true with COVID-19.
Susan Walsh from the PID UK said they were advising people to follow Public Health England guidelines.
She told The Guardian: “We are also telling people that if they do feel ill they should contact a doctor promptly with details of their diagnosis, medication and immunology centre.
“It’s a balance between raising awareness, but not creating great fear. It needs to be handled very carefully.”
While smoking isn’t an underlying health condition, smokers are much more susceptible to getting coronavirus due to their weakened lung function.
Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist at the Honor Health medical group in Arizona, told Business Insider that anyone with a history of smoking could be more vulnerable to this coronavirus.
“Since COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and often causes pneumonia, having a history of smoking could increase the risk of more severe respiratory distress or pneumonia,” she said.
In particular, the first two patients to die at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, detailed in the Lancet Medical journal, were both long-term smokers.
medical reference: The Sun