Nearly every American who has died of coronavirus also suffered from other underlying diseases, recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data reveal.
According to the CDC’s latest update on COVID-19 fatalities, 94 percent of people who have died of the infection in the US had at least one pre-existing condition, such as obesity, high blood pressure or heart disease.
Coronavirus was the sole cause of death for just six percent of fatalities as of data published August 26.
In total, 180,221 Americans have been killed by coronavirus as of Monday, August 31.
But among death certificates submitted to the CDC, just 9,683 listed COVID-19 alone as the cause of death.
The latest CDC data reveals that just 6% of people who have died of COVID-19 in the US died of coronavirus alone, while 94% of death certificates listed other diseases as well. Pictured: a Houston health care worker tends to a patient at United Medical Center’s COVID-19 ward (file)
It became clear early on in the pandemic that elderly people and those with underlying chronic health conditions were most vulnerable to catching and getting severely ill from coronavirus – as the case with most infectious diseases.
People in these vulnerable populations tend to have weaker immune systems, which makes it harder for their bodies to fight off infection.
Many – especially those who are obese or have high blood pressure – also have higher levels of baseline inflammation.
Because COVID-19 often triggers an inflammatory immune response that can quickly grow out of control, the bodies of people who already have higher-than-normal levels of inflammation are more likely to become overwhelmed, and start to fail.
But then reports began to emerge of younger, otherwise healthy people falling seriously ill, too.
Some people in their 20s and 30s even died in the US and abroad.
Their families were left stunned and puzzled by how a virus so quickly killed their loved ones.
Others the world round were left terrified and acutely aware that there was no predicting who might die of the new virus.
It’s still possible, but the latest CDC data suggest that these unexpected premature deaths might be a rarer incidence than previously thought.
‘For 6 percent of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned,’ the CDC wrote in its latest update last week.
‘For deaths with conditions or causes in addition to COVID-19, on average, there were 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.’
Among the most common comorbidities were kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Notably, conditions listed as causes of death alongside coronavirus were flu and pneumonia (categorized together by the CDC) and forms or respiratory failure and distress that may themselves have been complications of coronavirus.
Still, the latest data highlights just how vulnerable chronic health conditions leave people to the new virus.
And that should be taken to heart by 45 percent of the US population – more than 133 million people – who suffer from at least one chronic health condition.
However, it may be some small comfort to other Americans as schools and offices continue to reopen ahead of the approval of a vaccine against COVID-19.