More than four in five aged care residents are at risk of serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19 while half of residents are in higher danger due to having two or more risk factors, a University of South Australia study has found.
Males, increasing age and people with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are identified as more vulnerable to poor outcomes from COVID-19 and more than one of these conditions increases the risks.
The federally-funded study explored the prevalence of risk factors among 103,422 Department of Veterans’ Affairs clients aged 70 or over, of whom 11,276 are living in residential aged care and 91,546 in the community.
The study, which was conducted in April 2020, found that 82 per cent of aged care residents and 79 per cent of participants in the community had at least one risk factor.
Overall, half of the seniors had two or more risk factors for poor outcomes in the event of a COVID-19 infection while 20 per cent had three or more risk factors.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Nicole Pratt said there were similar findings in the prevalence of risk factors across aged care residents and community dwelling seniors but differences in individual conditions.
“We found about 80 per cent of patients have at least one risk factor that would place them at increased risk of COVID if they were to be infected,” Associate Professor Pratt told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“In the residential aged care group, we found they had more chronic conditions like COPD, which is a chronic disease of the airways. We also found that they had higher rates of heart disease than those in the community,” said Professor Pratt, director of the Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre at UniSA.
The most prevalent risk factor across both groups is hypertension followed by chronic heart disease, chronic airways disease and diabetes. Less prevalent risk factors include malignancy, immunosuppressed, renal failure, cerebrovascular disease and chronic liver disease.
Professor Pratt said the results suggest that prioritising aged care residents and people in the community aged care over 70 in the vaccine rollout was appropriate.
The study Prevalence of multiple risk factors for poor outcomes associated with COVID-19 among an elderly Australian population was published in the Australian Journal of General Practice.
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