CDC updates guidance to include mental health disorders as underlying medical conditions associated with higher risk for severe COVID-19

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 6:05 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The CDC has updated its guidance on underlying medical conditions associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19.

“Diseases, like diabetes, obesity, cancer. Certain neurologic problems, like stroke, would increase your risk of having a severe outcome with COVID-19,” Dr. Bill Petri, Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Virginia, said.

Now, people who struggle with mental health are also at a higher risk of having a severe reaction, if they contract COVID-19.

“They were able to look at 5 million hospital admissions in the U.S. during the COVID pandemic. Of those 5 million, about 1 out of 10, or half a million, were admissions for COVID-19,” Dr. Petri explained.

Within that study, researchers found that obesity and diabetes were just as important risk factors as anxiety and stress.

“There truly could be a biologic link between being anxious and having worse COVID-19,” Dr. Petri said.

And this new guidance allows public health officials to prioritize patients with mental health conditions.

“The Pfizer booster, which is now approved, and soon Moderna and J&J, an underlying medical condition that increases your risk is one of the ways to qualify for a booster,” Dr. Petri said.

Dr. Petri notes these findings also emphasize the importance of dealing with anxiety and mental health.

“Someone who is in a good state of mental health, it’s easier to manage all these chronic underlying illnesses, and stress can directly and biologically impact your response to things,” Dr. Petri said.

But managing stress and anxiety has been more difficult during the pandemic.

“It’s important for all of us to manage stress. We see a friend who is under stress or something, be able to talk with them and try to help with the situation that they’re in,” Dr. Petri said.

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