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CDC Updates List of Underlying Conditions for Severe COVID-19

Heart disease, obesity, diabetes among conditions that increase risk for serious illness

 A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mobile web screen on the topic of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 is  displayed over an illustrated map of the United States that tracks the virus

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En español | The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has once again updated its information on who is most at risk for severe illness from a coronavirus infection.

Older adults and people with underlying health conditions remain the primary high-risk populations. "The risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk,” the CDC says.

More than 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths occur in people over age 65, and more than 95 percent of COVID-19 deaths occur in people older than 45, according to the CDC.


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On March 29, the CDC condensed and simplified its list of health conditions that put individuals at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19. The agency also added links to scientific evidence that supports inclusion of each condition.

“This will make it easier for patients and the public and providers to understand the important information related to their underlying medical conditions and its potential impact on COVID-19 severity,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a news briefing.

The following conditions that the CDC previously said “might” put individuals at greater risk are now listed as putting someone at “high risk”: type 1 diabetes (type 2 was already on the list), moderate to severe asthma, stroke/cerebrovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, high blood pressure, dementia or other neurological conditions, liver disease, pregnancy, HIV infection, a weakened immune system from blood or bone marrow transplant, and being overweight.

The CDC also added substance use disorders (such as alcohol, opioid or cocaine use disorder) to the list. It did not remove any conditions from the list.

Part of the reason risk increases with age is because people are more likely to acquire health issues later in life, Butler explained. And underlying health conditions are a huge driver of complications that arise from COVID-19. A June 2020 report from the CDC found that hospitalizations for people with COVID-19 were six times higher for patients with chronic health conditions, compared with otherwise healthy individuals; deaths among this population were 12 times higher.


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Underlying health conditions and COVID-19

In general, the more health conditions you have — and the more severe those conditions are — the higher your risk, the CDC says.

An estimated 60 percent of American adults have at least one chronic medical condition, the CDC notes; about 40 percent have two or more. More than 42 percent of U.S. adults are obese, and when you factor in adults who are overweight, including obesity, that number inches closer to 72 percent, federal data show.

Knowing if you are at increased risk for severe illness can help you make more informed decisions during the pandemic. It’s especially important for those with medical conditions to take preventive measures such as wearing a mask, social distancing, practicing hand hygiene and getting a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC says.

The CDC recommended that states prioritize those with health conditions for COVID-19 vaccination.  

Here is the new, simplified list of medical conditions that the CDC says put you at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19:

Medical Conditions That Increase COVID-19 Risk

People with the following conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the CDC says:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic lung diseases, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate to severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions
  • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies or hypertension)
  • HIV infection
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight and obesity (defined as a body mass index of 25 or greater)
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
  • Smoking, current or former
  • Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant (includes bone marrow transplants)
  • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain
  • Substance use disorders (such as alcohol, opioid or cocaine use disorder)

    Source: CDC

This article, originally published on June 25, 2020, was updated with new information on April 1, 2021.

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