Covid-19 and Chronic Illness

Who is at increased risk for Covid 19 infection?

  • Seniors
  • People with Immunocompromised diseases
  • People with serious medical conditions that use immunosuppressive drugs

Why are these people more susceptible to the Coronavirus?


Medline: Aging Changes in the Community

As you grow older, your immune system does not work as well. 

  • The immune system becomes slower to respond. This increases your risk of getting sick. Flu shots or other vaccines may not work as well or protect you for as long as expected.
  • An autoimmune disorder may develop. This is a disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissues.
  • Your body may heal more slowly. There are fewer immune cells in the body to bring about healing.
  • The immune system’s ability to detect and correct cell defects also declines. This can result in an increased risk of cancer.

People with medical conditions that use Immunosuppressive drugs:

If you take a medication that suppresses your immune system you become more likely to get sick.

What is an immunosuppressive drug and why would you take one?

Immunosuppressants are drugs that deliberately weaken your immune system. A person might be on these if they have

  • Had an organ transplant
  • An autoimmune disease (e.g. multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc)

People with diseases of Primary or Secondary Immunodeficiency

Primary immunodeficiency disorders are ones you are born with.

Specific kinds of primary immune deficiency disorders and their effects are listed here:

  • X-linked agammaglobulinemia affects only males and results in infections of the ear, nose, throat, skin, and lungs.
  • B lymphocyte deficiencies come in many forms and result in bacterial infections in various body systems as well as rheumatoid arthritis, anemia, and sometimes cancer.
  • T lymphocyte deficiencies result in weakness to viruses, fungi, and some bacteria. Infections are more severe and often fatal. DiGeorge syndrome is the most common of these, with recognizable physical characteristics, and is caused from the lack of a thymus gland, largely responsible for T lymphocyte production.
  • Combined immune deficiencies result from a lack of both B and T lymphocytes. An example is SCID, a disease that shows up before age 1 and causes severe infections, diarrhea, thrush, and without a bone marrow transplant, usually results in death by the age of 2.
  • Disorders of innate immunity affect phagocytes, another component of the immune system, and result in severe infections.

Secondary immunodeficiency disorders are acquired. They are not the result of birth, but of other circumstances. 

Caused by medications:

These are often the effects of specific medications that temporarily suppress or permanently damage the immune system (e.g. chemotherapy). Immune deficiency also occurs when the spleen is removed, since the spleen is an important immune system organ.

Caused by acquiring other diseases:

Another cause of acquired immune deficiency disorders are diseases such as chickenpox, lupus, mono, tuberculosis, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Because of the potentially severe consequences of these diseases, children are given vaccines against them when possible. 

Caused by malnutrition:

Severe malnutrition is also known to lead to acquired immune deficiency (e.g. digestive tract paralysis diseases).


SHOUTOUT to and their Q&A between immunocompromised patients and physicians.

This information has been compiled by Jim Sliney Jr, RMA from University of California San FranciscoMedlinePlus.govDisability-Benefits-Help.orgNational Institutes of Health. This information is not medical advice.

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