The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also changed the list of underlying conditions that make a person more vulnerable to suffering and death. Sickle cell disease has joined the list, for example. And the threshold for at-risk obesity levels has been lowered.
The changes did not include the addition of race as a risk factor for serious illness, despite the accumulation of evidence that Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans have higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death.
Agency officials said the update was prompted by published medical studies since the CDC began listing high-risk groups. They sought to publish the news before the Independence Day weekend, when many people might be tempted to go out and socialize.
“For those at higher risk, we recommend limiting contact with others as much as possible, or limiting contact to a small number of people who are willing to take steps to reduce the risk of (you) being infected “Said CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield.
The same advice goes for people who live with or care for people at high risk, added Redfield.
Previously, the CDC said that those at high risk for serious illness were those aged 65 and over; those who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility; and people with severe heart disease, obesity, diabetes, liver disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease and conditions that leave them with weakened immune systems.
In the changes, the CDC created categories of high risk and high risk people.
People at high risk include people with chronic kidney disease, chronic inflammatory lung disease, obesity, severe heart disease, sickle cell anemia, type 2 diabetes, and a weakened immune system due to transplants. organs. The obesity concern threshold has been lowered by a body mass index from 40 to 30.
The CDC said people are at increasing risk as they age, but it has excluded people 65 and older as a high-risk group.
The list of people who may be at high risk includes pregnant women, smokers and people with asthma, diseases that affect blood flow to the brain, cystic fibrosis, high blood pressure, dementia, liver disease, scarred or damaged lungs, type 1 diabetes, a rare blood disorder called thalassemia, and people with weakened immune systems due to HIV or other reasons.
Pregnant women joined the list the same day that a CDC report found that they accounted for approximately 9% of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases in women of childbearing age. About 5% of women of childbearing age are pregnant at all times.
The report found that pregnant women had higher rates of hospitalization, admission to an intensive care unit in the hospital and ending up on a respirator compared to young women who were not pregnant. However, there was no clear evidence of a higher death rate among pregnant women.
It’s not completely surprising, said Dr. Denise Jamieson, president of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University School of Medicine. Jamieson said pregnant women are at higher risk for other infectious respiratory diseases, possibly because the lungs shrink as the uterus grows.
What is surprising, she said, is that the CDC has not placed pregnant women in the highest risk category.
“To me, this is the most convincing evidence to date that pregnant women are at increased risk,” said Jamieson, who spent 20 years at the CDC as a reproductive health expert.
Earlier this week, CDC officials called in a group of experts to help them identify the groups that should be prioritized for coronavirus vaccinations if one becomes available and supplies are limited. .
Pregnant women could be part of this group. Certain racial and ethnic groups could too.
CDC officials shared data with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices which showed that, compared to white Americans, hospitalization rates for coronavirus were 4 times higher for Hispanics, 4.5 times higher for blacks and 5.5 higher for American Indians and Alaska Natives. A recent study in the Atlanta area suggested that being black posed as much a risk of hospitalization as diabetes, smoking or obesity.
“If we fail to treat racial and ethnic groups as being at high risk for prioritization, anything that comes out of our group will be viewed with great suspicion and with great reserve,” said Dr. Jose Romero, president of the Expert Group.
“These are groups that must be brought to the fore,” he said.
CDC officials say they expect to soon issue recommendations for racial and ethnic minority groups.
The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science is supported by the Department of Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press