About 51 percent of adults in North Carolina are at higher risk for a severe illness from COVID-19 because they are age 65 and over, have certain underlying health conditions, or both risk factors, according to a data analysis by the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

The underlying health conditions, which have been identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are:

*Chronic lung disease

*Cardiovascular disease

*Severe obesity


*Kidney disease

*Liver disease and immunosuppressive conditions, including cancer treatment


*Other immune disorders

The NCDHHS reportedly cross-referenced the CDC’s health conditions with its own data sources to identify the percent of North Carolinians who are at higher risk for serious illness, according to an NCDHHS news release.

The analysis concludes that an estimated 51.1 percent of adults in North Carolina have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 because of one or both of the two risk factors.

The NCDHHS’s data sources do not contain every underlying health condition identified by the CDC, and their definitions of specific health conditions may not align exactly with the CDC’s, the release states, in describing “limitations to this analysis.”

According to the NCDHHS, 42 percent of people in North Carolina have at least one of the CDC’s underlying health conditions, and 52 percent of the people in North Carolina who died in 2018—the most recent complete year with data available—had one of the health conditions.

For more details about the data and the analysis, see: https://files.nc.gov/ncdhhs/documents/files/covid-19/Risk-Factors-for-Severe-Illness-from-COVID-19.pdf

Of interest, we believe, is the analytical breakdown of the percent of COVID-19 cases and patient deaths in North Carolina in which an underlying health condition was a risk factor.

Data about underlying health conditions “are obtained through case investigations, which take time,” according to the NCDHHS release. “Local Health Departments contact each person that has tested positive for COVID-19 to gather this data.”

Information about specific health conditions “will become more complete as case investigations are completed and information is entered into the North Carolina Electronic Disease Surveillance System,” it states.

Suffice it to say that information about underlying health conditions will never be available for all COVID-19 cases or COVID-19-related deaths.

Here is what available data reportedly show, as of May 4:

The percent of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases with at least one underlying health condition, by patient age:

Patients 0-17: 7 percent have condition; 48 percent no condition; 45 percent unknown.

Patients 18-24: 13 percent have condition; 46 percent no condition; 41 percent unknown.

Patients 25-49: 19 percent have condition; 34 percent no condition; 47 percent unknown.

Patients 50-64: 38 percent have condition; 22 percent no condition; 40 percent unknown.

Patients age 65 and over: 51 percent have condition; 8 percent no condition; 40 percent unknown.

Overall, 31 percent of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases have a known underlying health condition; 23 percent do not; and 46 percent are unknown.

The percent of lab-confirmed COVID-19 deaths with at least one underlying health condition, by patient age:

Patients ages 0 to 24: no deaths have been reported.

Patients 25-49: 63 percent have condition; 19 percent do not; 19 percent unknown.

Patients 50-64: 79 percent have condition; 10 percent do not; 10 percent unknown.

Patients 65+: 75 percent have condition; 3 percent do not; 22 percent unknown.

Overall, 75 percent of the people who have died because of lab-confirmed COVID-19 had an underlying health condition; 4 percent did not; and 21 percent were unknown.

The analysis also breaks down the incidence of a specific underlying health condition in people with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and among those who have died because of COVID-19. Although the data are incomplete, the most common underlying health condition is cardiovascular disease, followed by diabetes and chronic lung disease.

The full report is available at https://files.nc.gov/ncdhhs/documents/files/covid-19/Risk-Factors-for-Severe-Illness-from-COVID-19, pdf.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/5/20

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