Both the president and the first lady are said to be experiencing “mild symptoms” since testing positive for COVID-19 and are quarantined at the White House.
Older adults and those with underlying medical conditions are considered to be at an increased risk for severe illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While those aged 85 and older are considered to be at greatest risk of severe illness from the virus, according to the CDC. In the United States, 8 out of 10 COVID-19-related deaths are among adults aged 65 years and older.
“What we’ve seen is people over age 60 are at much higher risk usually because there are other comorbid medical problems like heart disease, diabetes and obesity,” Dr. Purvi Parikh, an infectious disease specialist an allergist with NYU Langone Health, told Fox News. “Also, your immune system gets weaker as you age — your immunity starts waning as you get older and it becomes much harder to fight infections.”
Trump is also considered obese with a BMI of 30.5, putting him at additional risk. Parikh said staying active, keeping up to date with age-appropriate health screenings, and also making sure medical conditions are under control can all help lower your risk of complications, not just for COVID-19, but for all infections.
“There are a lot of measures that elderly people should be taking,” she said. “In general, because they’re high risk, they should avoid highly crowded areas, have things delivered, like food and groceries, avoid public transportation … these are all high-risk areas.”
Parikh suggested other safe practices for helping to lower the risk, including wearing a mask when around people who outside immediate family, as well as keeping a distance of between 6 and 10 feet, and avoiding indoor events at others’ homes.
“Whenever there is a vaccine, they are a high-risk population that needs a vaccine before most people,” she added of those in the age group.
Parikh, who worked with coronavirus patients in New York during the first surge of cases, said that while she and her colleagues saw severe cases across every age group, there was a stronger trend toward those who were over age 60 and obese.
One of the difficulties in preventing severe illness with coronavirus is recognizing symptoms before it’s too late. Parikh said one of the main differentiating factors separating COVID-19 from other illnesses is a high temperature and whether you’ve had recent contact with someone who tested positive.
Diarrhea, nausea and vomiting can also be symptoms of COVID-19, but they also tend to surface with other viruses that can make it difficult to tell the difference.
“This underscores the importance of contact tracing,” Parikh said. “Anyone who comes in contact with anyone who’s positive really needs to be tested and or quarantining. That’s an important point. The testing isn’t 100 percent, there are a lot of false negatives. Take a negative test result with a grain of salt if you do develop symptoms.”