Heart disease main underlying condition in COVID-19 deaths

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The number of known deaths from the coronavirus in Oregon topped 100 on Wednesday.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 61 new cases of the coronavirus and two deaths, bringing the total known death toll to 101. Of almost 55,000 people tested, 2,446 results were positive.

All those who died in the state from the coronavirus had underlying health conditions, said health authority spokesman Jonathan Modie.

Almost 60% had cardiovascular disease, according to a table published by the Oregon Health Authority late Tuesday.

The data, based on case interviews and medical records of 73 people who died, marked the first time the agency specified what the underlying conditions have been.

“It does show the insidiousness and severity of this disease and how much it attacks the body,” Modie said.

A person who died may have had more than one underlying condition, the OHA noted.

The second-highest underlying medical condition was a neurological or neurodevelopmental issue. Neurological disorders include epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and cerebrovascular diseases including stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Other underlying conditions included diabetes, in 33% of cases; lung disease, 29%; kidney disease, 25%; 18% with compromised immune systems; and liver disease, 7%.

Dawn Nolt, associate professor of pediatrics of the division of infectious diseases at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, said she is not surprised that diseases of major organs and poor immune system are a factor in so many deaths.

“You are probably going to have a harder time combating the infection and in fact may have more serious consequences,” Nolt said.

Around half of the confirmed deaths in Oregon of the coronavirus were people 80 or older. One-quarter were 70-79.

Unless state health officials separate single condition from multiple conditions, it will be impossible to assess whether it is a particular condition, or some combination of conditions, that makes COVID-19 patients most at risk of dying, said Chunhuei Chi, director of the Center for Global Health at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

“For example, I can’t say that cardiovascular disease is the highest risk of underlying condition to die from COVID-19,” Chi said.

If a person had smoked before and quit, that was also listed as an underlying condition, with 25% of fatal cases in that category. However, OHA did not specify how long ago they quit smoking.

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