Trump's age, health woes raise his risk for COVID-19 illness

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President Donald Trump has several strikes against him age, obesity, elevated cholesterol and being male that could put him at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus infection he disclosed early Friday.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive, are both well at this time and plan to remain at the White House while recovering and being closely monitored, according to a statement from his physician, Dr. Sean Conley.

A White House official said Friday that Trump was having mild symptoms.

The odds are far and away that he’ll have a mild illness as most people with the virus do, said Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic who has no role in Trump’s care.

But COVID-19 is very unpredictable, he stressed.

We have young people who die. We have nursing home patients, a lot of them, who actually do quite well, Poland said.

No treatments have proven effective for preventing illness in someone who is infected but with no or mild symptoms. That includes hydroxychloroquine, a drug Trump long promoted and even took himself earlier this year after a White House staffer tested positive for the virus.

Here’s what experts say about Trump’s outlook and next steps.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Infection causes mild or no symptoms in about 80 per cent of cases. About 15 per cent of people become seriously ill and 5 per cent get critically ill.

Symptoms, when they do occur, usually appear two to 14 days after infection and can include loss of smell or taste, coughing, a sore throat, trouble breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea and fever.

Up to half of patients who are hospitalized don’t have a fever when admitted but nearly all develop one. How people fare varies widely some seem to be recovering and then suddenly worsen.

Pneumonia, often with a specific appearance on X-rays, sometimes develops but complications in virtually every organ of the body have been reported.

Doctors also increasingly recognize that some people have long-lasting symptoms.

TRUMP’S RISKS

Older age, being male and having any other health problems increase the chance of severe illness, and Trump has those.

At 74, his age would be the primary risk factor, said Dr. David Banach, an infectious diseases physician at the University of Connecticut’s health system.

People ages 65 to 74 are seven times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than those who are 18 to 29 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The risks rise exponentially at older ages.

Trump also is obese, with a body mass index just past 30.