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Who is considered high risk when it comes to covid's Omicron variant?

“Those are the patients that we're seeing get sick. The young people that are dying usually have one or two or three of these risk factors.”

NEW ORLEANS — Many people are not concerned about the latest COVID-19 variant that is spreading, because Omicron is thought to cause milder symptoms, but a local doctor has a warning.

There are some people who must take extra precautions.

An ICU doctor on the COVID front line is sounding a warning about who is most at risk for hospitalization and death.

“Since the first patient we had here in Louisiana, and some of the two patients that I saw today, the people that are getting the worst disease in their lungs tend to be those who have metabolic diseases,” said Dr. Josh Denson, Tulane Medical Director of Critical Care and Pulmonology.

Metabolic Syndrome includes:

  • Obesity
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Prediabetes
  • High Cholesterol

Dr. Denson says the risk even includes milder conditions of these, no matter what your age.

“Those are the patients that we're seeing get sick," he said. "The young people that are dying usually have one or two or three of these risk factors.”

Dr. Denson examined records of more than 46,000 COVID patients in hospitals worldwide. His finding were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open. He says the virus affects the lungs of people with these conditions even more than those with other chronic illnesses like cancer and lung disease.

“Especially if you're unvaccinated. It's really heartbreaking because I can predict what's going to happen in the next few weeks,” he said about patients.

While the Omicron variant appears to be milder, it's causing the same pattern.

“We've gotten more (hospital) admissions this week than I had last week by over 100 percent for sure. And the same risk factors are there. They're leaving behind families. It's horrible. I don't know why people aren't getting vaccinated," Dr. Denson said.

To make matters worse, Louisiana has one of the highest numbers of people with these conditions.

“I had a 30-year-old person die two days ago, and they had two of these metabolic risk factors, and that was it," he said. "They thought they were healthy, and they had, you know, some mild obesity, and they didn't even know they were pre-diabetic.”

So, especially for the high risk, get vaccinated and boosted, and remember you're most at risk of catching the virus indoors and unmasked.

Dr. Denson estimates that 30-to-50 percent of people in the U.S. don't know they have prediabetes or a weight that is considered high risk.

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