Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
Causes & Risk Factors Causes & Risk Factors

Causes & Risk Factors

Who Is Most At Risk?

COVID-19 is a new disease and there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe disease. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

COVID-19 Symptoms
View our comparison chart showing the differences between COVID, allergies, cold and flu.  

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that are common in people and different species of animals, including cattle, camels, cats and bats. Similar to the flu or other respiratory infections, COVID-19 is mainly spread from person to person. A spread is most likely to happen between people in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Although not believed to be the primary way the virus spreads, it may be possible for a person to contract COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their nose, mouth or eyes.

Based upon available information to date, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:

Other high-risk conditions could include:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
  • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk
  • People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk

Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.