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Who is at higher risk for severe illness? Heading link

COVID-19 is new viral disease that impacts the respiratory system. Information is still being put together on risk factors for severe disease. However, based on available information from researchers and clinicians several populations have been identified as being at higher risk for severe disease.

Older Adults Heading link

older adults

The CDC cites that older adults, ages 65 and up, as a high risk population. 8 out of 10 deaths in the United States have been in adults ages 65 and up.

Older adults living in nursing homes or long term care facilities are especially at risk for COVID-19.

Chronic Lung Disease Heading link

lungs and virus

Those living with chronic lung disease, such as Black Lung, Asthma, COPD, are at higher risk for developing severe symptoms from COVID-19. COVID-19 impairs the function of the lungs. This can make it even more difficult for those living with chronic lung disease to breathe. Additionally, it puts more pressure on other organs in the body.

The UIC MinER Center cautions those living with pre-existing conditions, such as black lung, to take necessary precautions to avoid infection of coronavirus or COVID-19.

Pre-Existing Conditions Heading link


People of any age with an underlying medical condition are at higher risk for develop severe symptoms from COVID-19. Pre-existing conditions can weaken the defense system to fight off viral infections. COVID-19 can put extra stress on already weaken organs, which may cause more severe illness.

The CDC cites several health conditions as risks for severe illness:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Immunocompromised individuals
    • Cancer patients
    • HIV/AIDS patients
    • Organ transplant patients
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease

Smokers Heading link


Smokers are likely to be vulnerable to severe complications due to COVID-19. Smokers that are already living with lung disease or have reduced lung capacity are at higher risk for developing severe illness.

As a smoker brings their hand to their mouth to smoke, they increase the possibility of viral transmission from hands to mouth. Additionally, sharing cigarettes, pipes, or water pipes can also facilitate transmission.


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