ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — New analysis suggests two out of three Alaska adults have at least one risk factor health officials link with a higher chance of severe COVID-19 infection.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services findings indicate most adult Alaska residents are at an increased risk for hospitalization or worse after contracting COVID-19, The Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.
The risk factors include past or current smoking, obesity, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease and heart disease or previous heart attacks.
Using information from a survey of 8,500 Alaska adults between 2016 and 2018, researchers compared the health factors of the respondents to the conditions identified by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that can increase the likelihood of severe COVID-19 cases.
While the analysis found two out of three Alaska adults are likely to have at least one of the conditions increasing risk, other factors such as advanced age also make serious coronavirus infections more likely, said Ann Potempa, public health specialist with the state health department’s Chronic Disease Prevention section.
The combination of advanced age and chronic disease raises the number of Alaska adults living with vulnerability to severe coronavirus experiences to 71%, Potempa said.
Following a death or hospitalization resulting from the coronavirus, “the first thing everybody wants to know is about that underlying health condition,” Chronic Disease Prevention section Director Karol Fink said.
People without the risk factors can believe the disease will not affect them in a serious way, while disregarding the threat to family members, friends or colleagues who might have underlying health conditions causing higher vulnerability, Fink said.
“So we really wanted to put a number to that thought process to help people understand how many Alaskan adults are at risk for serious illness from COVID-19,” Fink said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.