High Risk Individuals

Are some people more at risk than others?

Elderly people above 70 years of age and those with underlying health conditions (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer) are considered to be more at risk of developing severe symptoms. Men in these groups also appear to be at a slightly higher risk than females.

Are children also at risk of infection and what is their potential role in transmission?

Children make up a very small proportion of reported COVID-19 cases, with about 1% of all cases reported being under 10 years, and 4% aged 10-19 years. Children appear as likely to be infected as adults, but they have a much lower risk than adults of developing symptoms or severe disease. There is still some uncertainty about the extent to which asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic children transmit disease.

What is the risk of infection in pregnant women and neonates?

There is limited scientific evidence on the severity of illness in pregnant women after COVID-19 infection. It seems that pregnant women appear to experience similar clinical manifestations as non-pregnant women who have progressed to COVID-19 pneumonia and to date (as of 25 March), there have been no maternal deaths, no pregnancy losses and only one stillbirth reported. No current evidence suggests that infection with COVID-19 during pregnancy has a negative effect on the foetus. At present, there is no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 from mother to baby during pregnancy and only one confirmed COVID-19 neonatal case has been reported to date. ECDC will continue to monitor the emerging scientific literature on this question, and suggests that all pregnant women follow the same general precautions for the prevention of COVID-19, including regular handwashing, avoiding individuals who are sick, and self-isolating in case of any symptoms, while consulting a healthcare provider by telephone for advice.

Can I catch COVID-19 from pets?

There is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. To protect yourself clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.

What should I do if I am immune-compromised or have immune-compromised children? Risk Factor

People with underlying medical conditions, such as a compromised immune system, liver disease, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes mellitus, need to take more precautions to protect themselves against all infections, including COVID-19. We recommend people take the following simple steps to protect yourself and others:

  • Avoid close contact with people with cold or flu-like illnesses.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing.
  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and dry them thoroughly:
  • before eating or handling food
  • after using the toilet
  • after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
  • after caring for sick people. Additional measures that you and your friends can take include:
  • If you are immune-compromised, avoid staying with a person who is self-isolating (because they are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 or have recently travelled overseas.)
  • You should stay at least 1 meter away from people who are unwell, if you are immune-compromised.
  • It’s also important that everyone helps to protect the safety of immunocompromised people living in our community. For example, if you’re unwell, avoid contact with someone who is immune-compromised.
  • We recommend checking safe travel advice about COVID-19 if you plan overseas travel.
  • At this time, it wouldn’t make sense for someone who is immune-compromised to wear a mask when in public to decrease risk for catching COVID-19. However, if your health care provider advises you to wear a mask when in public areas because you have a particularly vulnerable immune system, follow that advice.
  • If you are taking immunosuppressive drugs we advise that you do not stop this medication without first consulting your GP or specialist.

What should I do if I am in active cancer treatment? Risk Factor

Patients with cancer, and especially those on chemo and immunosuppressive therapy are at higher risk. These patients must follow the recommendations for high risk patients; self-isolation and strict hand hygiene. So far, there is no evidence to support changing or withholding chemotherapy or immunotherapy in patients with cancer. Clinical decisions should be individualized that consider factors such as the risk of cancer recurrence if therapy is delayed, modified or interrupted; the number of cycles of therapy already completed; and the patient’s tolerance of treatment. This decision must be taken with your oncologist.