1 In 5 People Across The Globe Are At Risk Of Developing Severe Covid-19

September 25, 2020

According to a new study, about 1 in 5 people around the world have underlying conditions that put them at risk of developing severe COVID-19 if infected with the coronavirus. That adds up to about 1.7 billion people worldwide.

According to the latest data from the Johns Hopkins University dashboard, the new coronavirus has infected more than 8 million people worldwide and killed more than 437,900. According to a previous report by Live Science, the virus has severely affected some people, while causing only minor or no symptoms in others.

The study found that underlying conditions, age and poverty were all factors that could lead to more serious illness. For example, researchers reported yesterday (June 15) in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that U.S. patients with COVID-19 are six times more likely to be hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die from underlying conditions, the most common of which are heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease.

Now, a group of researchers are paying particular attention to how the underlying conditions will affect the outcome of the virus on the world’s population.

To estimate the risk of serious disease, the researchers reportedly analyzed several datasets, including data from 188 countries, the global burden of disease, injury, and risk factors in a 2017 study, as well as United Nations population estimates for 2020.

Using guidelines provided by the World Health Organization and institutions in the United Kingdom and the United States, the authors grouped the underlying conditions that most affect the risk of severe COVID-19 into 11 categories: cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic respiratory disease, chronic liver disease, diabetes, cancer with direct immunosuppression (suppression of the body’s immune response due to cancer), no direct immunosuppression but treatment might immunosuppressive cancers, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, chronic neurological diseases and sickle cell disease.

They found that about 22 percent of the world’s population has at least one underlying condition that puts them at risk of developing severe COVID-19. The authors found that less than 5% of people under the age of 20 reported these underlying conditions; that number jumps to more than 66% of people over the age of 70.

What’s more, an estimated 1 in 25 people, or 349 million people worldwide, are at risk for severe COVID-19 and would require hospitalization if infected, according to the findings. Again, the risk increases with age: less than 1 percent of people younger than 20 and about 20 percent of people 70 and older would require hospitalization, the authors found.

The authors found that the risk of serious infection was highest in countries with older populations, African countries with high rates of HIV/AIDS and small islands with high rates of diabetes, according to the report.

The “advantage” of their model is that it can be modified as new data emerge and “allow for much-needed further stratification of risk to inform a precise public health approach,” the researchers not involved in the study wrote in an accompanying commentary. However, the authors have identified a number of limitations to their methodology, including their failure to consider age as an independent risk factor for predicting disease severity. In other words, according to the New York Times, they did not include healthy older individuals with no underlying health conditions in their statistics.

What’s more, their estimates did not include other prominent risk factors, such as race, poverty and obesity, according to the report. As a result, “our estimates are uncertain and focus on underlying conditions rather than other risk factors…. but provides a starting point for considering the number of individuals who may need shielding or vaccination as a global pandemic unfolds,” the authors wrote in the study.