CDC expands guidance on who's at risk of severe illness from COVID-19

Officials warn that a substantial number of more Americans are at increased risk than previously assumed.

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded its guidance on who's at risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19, saying that a "substantial number of Americans" face an increased risk.

The CDC warned Thursday that risk increases steadily as people age, removing its previous age threshold stating that people over the age of 65 were at increased risk for severe illness. 

The CDC also updated its list of underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of a severe illness in adults, adding that the changes expand the number of Americans who fall into a "high risk" group. 

The conditions:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

The CDC noted that obesity is one of the most common underlying conditions among Americans. About 40% of US adults are obese. Officials added that the "more underlying medical conditions people have, the higher their risk."

"Understanding who is most at risk for severe illness helps people make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a release. "While we are all at risk for COVID-19, we need to be aware of who is susceptible to severe complications so that we take appropriate measures to protect their health and well-being."

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus , has rapidly spread across the globe. There are now over 9.6 million confirmed cases globally, with more than 2.4 million in the US, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The CDC urged American to continue to take steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces and wearing a cloth face covering or mask when around people they don't live with. 

Watch this: Vaccines, antibody tests, treatments: The science of ending the pandemic