As we near the end of 2021, there is a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, omicron, that has the world on edge. The silver lining with omicron is that it may turn out be more infective but produce less serious symptoms and outcomes than the delta variant. Time will tell.

While the narrative is that the current state of the pandemic is that is one that is hitting the unvaccinated, that could all change quickly if omicron becomes the dominant variant.

Viruses generally want to mutate to a less lethal form. Afterall, if the virus kills the host its chance of long-term survival drops precipitously. So, the natural order of things is for SARS-CoV-2 to become an inconvenient viral infection like the common cold.

What I want to get across in this newsletter is to once again point out that the COVID-19 pandemic did not have to unravel the way it did. I have stressed this fact in other articles, such as How 90% of COVID Deaths Could Have Been Prevented.

The pandemic was largely one that hit the old and the unhealthy. Those are the people that we should have protected better.

What I am going to show you here in this newsletter is data from the CDC itself that will surprise you.

Even though nearly a million people in the United States died from COVID-19, the overall case mortality rate, those who got the infection, is estimated at less than 0.01 or 1 in 10,000 people infected with the virus.

But even this overall rate is misleading because the real life mortality rate is closely tied to both age and health status.

Let’s first look at the effect of age on getting COVID-19, being hospitalized as a result, and ultimately dying from it. (see Table 1).

 

Table 1 – Who Gets COVID-19, is Hospitalized, and Dies From it in the United States*

Age Group

Infections

Symptomatic

Illness

Hospitalizations

Deaths

0-17 years

25,844,005

22,030,307

266,597

645

18-49 years

75,179,070

64,029,542

1,996,830

60,355

50-64 years

27,407,088

23,378,591

2,009,141

159,489

65+ years

18,012,882

14,626,141

3,232,213

700,882

All ages

146,585,169

123,979,337

7,506,029

921,371

*Data from February 2020 through September 2021. Source: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker 12/15/2021

A couple of things should stand out in Table 1. First, the rate of infection is constant. Age does not seem to affect who is going to get COVID-19. Basically, the same percentage of people develop an infection within each age group including children.

But notice how the risk of death in someone over the age of 65 is 1,000 times greater than someone 17 years or younger. 

And if we look at Table 2 it provides even more context as it highlights the difference in mortality rates even more. It utilizes the 18-29 years old group as the comparative group. This age group represents the one with the highest numbers of infections and symptomatic illness, but a relative low number of deaths.

What the data shows is that someone over the age of 85 has a nearly 600 times greater risk of dying than someone aged 18–29 years old. And a nearly 60,000 times greater risk of dying compared to someone 0-17 years of age. 

Table 2. – A Closer Look at COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths by Age Group in the United States

 

18–29 years old

30–39 years old

40–49 years old

50–64 years old

65–74 years old

75–84 years old

85+ years old

Cases

Reference group

Hospitalization

Reference group

15×

Death

Reference group

10×

35×

95×

230×

600×

Source: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker 12/15/2021

Table 3 further highlights the difference in mortality rates by age. Most deaths, more than half, have occurred in people over the age of 75 years. By December 15,, it is estimated that more than 50% of children under 15 years of age (roughly 21% of the entire U.S. population) have had COVID-19. However, there are fewer than 500 total deaths in this age group and keep in mind that pre-existing health issues, like cancer, explain virtually all the deaths. The number of of deaths in children under age 15 translates to a case mortality rate of 0.0002% or roughly 2 deaths per million children infected with the virus. In contrast, among people over 85 years of age, the case mortality rate if they develop COVID-19 is estimated at 15%. What this means is that 15% of the people over the age of 85 who got COVID-19 died. That is a huge difference compared to other age groups and really put things into perspective. The pandemic has primarily impacted older adults and those with pre-existing health issues.

Table 1.3 – COVID-19 Deaths in the United States by Age

Age Group

COVID-19 Deaths

0–4 years

236

5–14 years

204

15–24 years

1,999

25–34 years

8,608

35–44 years

21,806

45–54 years

52,933

55–64 years

115,378

65–74 years

181,273

75–84 years

205,613

85 years and over

209,453

All ages

797,503

 

Age is only one factor that can lead to poor immune function, and it is certainly not as important as nutrient deficiency or the presence of comorbidities like obesity that are linked to poor outcomes in COVID-19. The truth is that a person can be older and have phenomenal immune function. In fact, many people over the age of 100 effectively blocked infection, had mild symptoms, or quickly recovered.

What this demonstrates is that age-related decline in immune function is not a normal part of aging. It may be “typical,” but it is not “normal.” Decreased immune function in older adults is most often secondary to nutritional status or the presence of a comorbidity.

From the very beginning of the pandemic, these comorbidities or pre-existing medical conditions were recognized as major risk factors for severe COVID-19. The same is true regarding insufficient vitamin D3 levels. Although many health officials recognized the role that these comorbidities play, they didn’t take steps to help people reduce them. Doing so may might have prevented much suffering and death.

 

Table 1.4 – Key Pre-existing Conditions (Comorbidities) Linked to More Severe COVID-19

  • Obesity
  • Anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated blood lipids
  • Chronic respiratory disease

One of the findings of the CDC’s evaluation of over a half a million patients hospitalized for COVID-19 was just how unhealthy the general U.S. population has become. Among the 540,667 hospitalized adults with COVID-19, 95% had at least one underlying medical condition. The strongest risk factors for death compared to those without any comorbidity were obesity (30% increase), anxiety (28%), and type 2 diabetes with complications. Among those 18–39 years of age, high blood pressure was associated with a 26% higher risk of death.

However, the more conditions a person has, the greater the adjusted relative risk of death, ranging from an increase of 1.53 or 53% for patients with one condition to 3.82 or 382% for patients with more than 10 conditions (compared with patients with no conditions). What a relative risk of 3.82 means is that someone with more than 10 conditions is nearly four times as likely to die from COVID-19 as someone with no conditions.

Similar increases were seen for mechanical ventilation (IMV) and admission into an intensive care unit (ICU). Figure 1.1 outlines these findings. What it shows is that as the number of comorbidities (conditions) increase the risk of death increases (referred to as risk ratio as noted by the bottom axis.

Figure 1.1 – Effects of Comorbidities on Risk of Death due to COVID-19*

From: Kompaniyets L, et al. Underlying Medical Conditions and Severe Illness Among 540,667 Adults Hospitalized With COVID-19, March 2020-March 2021. Prev Chronic Dis. 2021;18:E66.

 

How Do Comorbidities Increase COVID-19 Severity?

            Resolution of comorbidities and other factors linked to an increased risk of COVID-19 severity and death is very important. And there is evidence that doing so eliminates the risk  or at least greatly reduces it for both severity and death due to COVID-19. For example, poorly controlled blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes are associated with increased risk of dying from COVID-19. However, if a diabetic with controlled blood sugar levels gets COVID-19, it is not as severe and does not cause death as frequently as with a diabetic with poorly controlled blood sugar levels. This highlights a couple of principles of naturopathic medicine: focus on underlying root causes and eliminate obstacles to a cure.

            There are a lot of ways these comorbidities lead to increased risk for COVID-19 severity and death. For simplicity’s sake, we are going to narrow it down to three primary negative effects on the immune system:

  • Stress
  • Vitamin D3 insufficiency
  • Oxidative imbalance/glutathione depletion

What Do All of These Numbers Mean?

Two principles of naturopathic medicine are important to highlight here: focus on underlying root causes and eliminate obstacles to health or a cure. Resolution of comorbidities and other factors linked to an increased risk of COVID-19 severity and death is very important. And there is evidence that doing so eliminates the risk, or at least greatly reduces it, for both severity and death due to COVID-19.

My goal in presenting these statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is that aging, and these comorbidities have a detrimental effect on our “terrain” – the environment in our body and whether it is hospitable or inhospitable to an infecting organism.

I have written previously that the severity of COVID-19 is dependent on the infection equation – the interaction of our immune system with SARS-CoV-2:

A weak immune system + highly infectious virus = Severe disease

A strong immune system + highly infectious virus = Less severe to no disease

There are a lot of ways these comorbidities lead to increased risk for COVID-19 severity and death. For simplicity’s sake, here are three primary negative effects on the immune system seen in all of these comorbidities:

  • Vitamin D3 insufficiency
  • Oxidative imbalance/glutathione depletion
  • Stress

Recommended Dietary Supplements for Immune Support

During this time of increased need and focus on immune health, here are the key dietary supplements your body needs every day:

 

*Regarding the dosage of D3, as I have stressed in my article How 90% of COVID Deaths Could Have Been Prevented, it is critical to get blood levels of 25(OH)D3 up to 50-80 ng/ml. Doing so can save countless lives. Here are the current dosage recommendations:

  • Adults currently not taking vitamin D3 or those with 25(OH)D3 blood levels of less than 30 ng/ml should take 10,000 IU (250 mcg) daily for 2–3 weeks.
  • After this loading dosage, adults should supplement at a dosage of 4,000 IU (100 mcg) daily. This dosage is universally regarded as safe.
  • Adults at increased risk of deficiency due to excess weight, dark skin, or living in nursing homes may need a higher daily intake of 8,000 IU.
  • Testing is best to determine dosage.

 

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