Even with promising COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, it will likely be many months before they are widely available. This means that we must continue to do what we can to lower our risk and help prevent the virus’s spread.
As the World Health Organization leaders said recently: “We may be tired of COVID-19, but it is not tired of us.”
To help our customers and others during this next phase in the pandemic, 23andMe wanted to remind readers of its COVID-19 Information Center. To create this resource, our scientists culled through data from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We also condensed data from our own COVID-19 research study looking at genetic differences in both susceptibility and severity of the disease. The site includes data from both sources and offers people a place to learn more about the virus. It also highlights conditions that carry added risks, and actions you can take to lessen your risk.
With the numbers and rate of infections continuing to climb this fall, taking preventative actions and understanding risk is even more critical than ever. It’s sobering to note that in just nine months, the number of confirmed cases in the United States went from one to more than 10 million.
Beyond the stunning trajectory in the rate of infections, the numbers also illustrate that the virus hits each person differently. The virus can be deadly for some. Projections estimate that deaths from COVID in the U.S. will exceed 300,000 by the end of 2020. For many others, infections will mean hospitalization, or it may result in on-going health issues. But for the majority of those who are infected, the effects may be relatively mild.
Differences in Susceptibility and Severity
A need to understand why that is, why the virus hits some so much harder than others, helped drive 23andMe’s COVID-19 Study. We learned a lot. That genetics — specifically blood type — might play a role in the illness’s susceptibility and severity. We published our findings in September and shared them with other researchers worldwide looking for new treatments for the virus.
But we also know that other non-genetic factors also play a significant role, including age and underlying chronic health conditions. We included some of this data in our study. For example, the data shows that underlying chronic health conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes significantly increased the risk for hospitalization for COVID-19. Simply being overweight increased the risk for hospitalization by about 34 percent over those with average body mass index among those participating in our study.
Other Underlying Chronic Health Conditions
In our COVID-19 Information Center, we used preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control. The information center gives people a way to learn how chronic health conditions might add to their hospitalization risk. (Editor’s Note: This data was from early in the pandemic, and the hospitalization rates have changed since then.)
For example, people with COVID-19 who also have chronic renal disease were almost three times as likely to be hospitalized as others with the virus, according to the CDC data. About three-quarters of patients with the virus and with chronic renal disease were admitted to the hospital. This compares to about 23 percent of all patients with COVID-19 in the study. More than a quarter, (28 percent) of those with COVID-19 and chronic renal disease were admitted to the ICU. This is compared to 7 percent of all COVID-19 patients.
The COVID-19 Information Center also looks at how smoking may increase the risk of hospitalization for those infected. Current or former smokers with COVID were more likely to wind up in the hospital, according to the data. About 43 percent of current and former smokers with the virus required hospitalization and 15 percent were admitted to the ICU.
Those interested in learning more about these and other risk factors can find the COVID-19 Information Center here. You can learn more about 23andMe’s COVID-19 Study here.