With so much coronavirus attention focused on the vulnerability of adults over 60, health experts worldwide are ramping up warnings that seniors are not the only ones at increased risk of contracting the Covid-19 disease.
If you live with or regularly interact with a senior or others with underlying medical conditions, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises healthy people -- including home health aides and other in-home providers -- to conduct themselves as if they were a significant risk to susceptible people.
The new guidance includes washing hands thoroughly before interacting with the person and washing often while providing help such as feeding or caring for the person in any way. You should also ensure all utensils and surfaces are cleaned regularly, and when possible, provide a protected space for vulnerable members of the same household.
Who’s most at risk?
According to the CDC, those considerably more susceptible to getting very sick from this illness include adults over 60 as well as people with a host of common, chronic medical conditions, including:
- Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease or patients on blood thinners.
- Chronic kidney disease as defined by your doctor. The patient has been told to avoid or reduce the dose of medications because of kidney disease, or is under treatment for kidney disease, including receiving dialysis.
- Chronic liver disease as defined by your doctor, such as cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis. The patient has been told to avoid or reduce the dose of medications because of liver disease or is under treatment for liver disease.
- Compromised immune system/immunosuppression such as seeing a doctor for cancer and treatments including chemotherapy or radiation, having received an organ or bone marrow transplant, taking high doses of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medications, and HIV or AIDS.
- Current or recent pregnancy in the last two weeks.
- Endocrine disorders such as diabetes mellitus.
- Metabolic disorders such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders.
- Heart disease such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, and coronary artery disease.
- Lung disease including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis or emphysema), or other chronic conditions associated with impaired lung function or that require home oxygen.
- Neurological and neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve; muscle disorders such as cerebral palsy; epilepsy and other seizure disorders; stroke; intellectual disability; moderate to severe developmental delay; muscular dystrophy; or spinal cord injury.
In addition, a Bloomberg news report this week from China, where Covid-19 started, said that although there has been no published research yet, Chinese doctors treating patients in Wuhan province saw that those with high blood pressure seem to be much more seriously affected.
If you fall into a higher risk category, take extra measures to put distance between yourself and other people by staying home as much as possible.
And in addition to routine and frequent, 20-second hand-washing, the CDC said people at risk should:
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas.
- Stock up on medications, groceries, and other necessities now.
- Have a back-up plan for health care or in-home providers if they are homebound.
- Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
- Try not to make contact with high-touch surfaces in public areas.
- Stop all non-essential travel including plane trips, and especially avoid embarking on cruise ships.
If you or a loved one is more susceptible to illness, and there is no significant reason to interact with others or leave home -- such as a time-pressing doctor appointment -- then experts recommend hunkering down. If a home health aide is part of your or your family’s care team, be sure to communicate your plan to them and be sure they, too, are washing their hands as soon as they enter the home and multiple times during their shift and appropriately disinfecting household areas.