While coronaviruses have been around for thousands of years (the common cold, for example), this particular new strain of coronavirus is a greater concern for the general public given that it had not been previously identified in humans before now. Outbreaks of new viral infections such as these are always much more concerning as there’s little known about their characteristics, the transmission, and how severe they may be in individuals who contract them. However, as the days and weeks go on, we are learning more about COVID-19, which is why government and health officials are taking necessary steps to try and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, such as recommending social distancing and restricting travel, which includes self-isolation for 14 days if you have travelled outside of Canada. The restrictions put in place solely depend on where you reside, so it’s always a good idea to check with your local government if you’re unsure about what is happening where you live.

If you’re wondering whether or not you’re at risk of developing coronavirus, we essentially all are. That being said, there are certain individuals who are at greater risk of developing it than others, and a list of the most at-risk individuals was recently released by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the following:

  • Those with compromised immune systems, including individuals who are on high doses of steroids and/or other immunosuppressant medications, undergoing cancer treatment (such as chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy), or have received bone marrow or organ transplants.
  • Those with blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease or are on blood thinners.
  • Those with chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis.
  • Those with endocrine disorders, such as diabetes mellitus.
  • Those with chronic kidney disease.
  • Those with lung disease, including asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema, as well as any other conditions that may cause one to have impaired lung function, as well as those who require at-home oxygen.
  • Those with heart disease, including coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, and congestive heart failure.
  • Those with neurological and neurodevelopment conditions, including seizure disorders such as epilepsy, moderate to severe developmental delay, intellectual disabilities, muscular dystrophy, and cerebral palsy.
  • Women who are either currently or were recently pregnant.

Along with these risk factors, your chances of developing coronavirus will also increase if you are around anyone who is sick, as well as if you are older (there tend to be fewer cases of COVID-19 seen in children and teenagers; and even young adults in their 20s – though this doesn’t mean these age groups are entirely immune to the virus.) If you’re someone on the list of risk factors above, you should take the same extra precautionary measure that we all need to be taking, including washing your hands with warm soap and water regularly (or using hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t readily available), avoid touching your face, cough/sneeze into your elbow/upper sleeve rather than into your hands, wipe down surfaces (such as desks, countertops, keyboards, and even door knobs/handles) with disinfectant wipes – and, of course, avoid interacting with anyone who is sick as well as avoiding interactions with others if you’re sick.

If you’re concerned about any of the risk factors mentioned above, your family physician will be able to answer any questions and concerns you have, and hopefully put your mind at ease.