OHA releases new data on COVID-19 cases

MEDFORD, Ore. — “We absolutely see young people who get very, very ill and we get old people who don’t even know they have it,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson Co. health officer.

If you’re looking for hard, fast rules for who coronavirus will impact and why, Dr. Shames says you won’t find any.

“Anybody can get it, anybody can fall seriously ill, but certain people are more likely to fall into one category or the other,” he said.

However, new data from the Oregon Health Authority can give us some statistical probabilities.

Of the over 2,000 people infected with COVID-19 in Oregon, it shows having underlying medical conditions and contact with a COVID-19 case prior to getting symptoms are the most common risk factors for getting sick with the virus.

“You would expect that a lower respiratory disease, which is how we’ve traditionally been characterizing this, as the people most at risk would be the people with lung disease, right? People with COBD, heavy smokers, asthma,” said Dr. Shames.

Dr. Shames says people with respiratory conditions are still at risk, but not as much as you’d expect.

“Cardiovascular disease, hypertension, those are significant risk factors for people who end up hospitalized and ultimately dying from this disease,” Dr. Shames said.

The OHA data shows cardiovascular disease, neurological and neuro-developmental conditions, and several other conditions like cancer and gastrointestinal disorders, as having the highest death rates from the virus.

“Obesity is a significant risk factor, diabetes, and certainly anything that compromises the immune system,” said Dr. Shames.

The OHA data also highlights what age groups have been infected with the virus.

Most cases are in people aged 30 to 69 and most deaths in ages 60 to 80.

At this time, there are no deaths under the age of 40.

“Younger people will get the disease but it’s usually the older people that get hospitalized at greater rates and it’s certainly the older group that has most of the fatalities,” said Dr. Shames.

Dr. Shames says the data can give us a picture of what Oregon’s cases look like at this moment in time.

But it won’t predict the future.

“We are still learning about this disease because it really is quite new to us,” he said.

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