COVID-19: Why Do Some Survive and Some Don’t?

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Update Date 28/07/2020 . 4 mins read
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Even in the early days of COVID-19, experts were quick to inform the public that the coronavirus affects people differently. That’s why some patients only develop mild symptoms, while others will turn out to need mechanical ventilators. Why do some survive COVID-19 and some don’t?

The Initial Premise

At the start of the pandemic, Filipinos thought that age is the determining factor on whether or not someone would survive COVID-19.

After all, that was consistent with what was happening – older people suffered more severe symptoms. And those who were younger either develop mild, cold-like symptoms to moderate symptoms that only require a short hospital stay.

And then news started spreading that young, fairly healthy people are experiencing critical symptoms, while older people in their 70s and above could survive the coronavirus disease.

It turned out that most of these “young, healthy” people had underlying conditions. Still, the question remains: why do some survive COVID-19 while others don’t?

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The Role of Pre-existing Conditions in the Severity of COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), we still have limited studies to determine the impact of underlying health conditions on the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

Still, they stated that regardless of age, people with certain pre-existing medical conditions have heightened risk for severe illness from the novel coronavirus. Some of the underlying medical conditions mentioned are the following.

Type 2 Diabetes

Seeing that Type 2 diabetes is a common condition among Filipinos, we’ll put it on top of the list.

One review analyzed 13 relevant studies. The researchers found out that diabetic patients were almost 3.7 times more likely to develop a critical case of COVID infection than people who didn’t have pre-existing conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, and other respiratory illnesses.

Additionally, there are also more incidences of COVID-related deaths among diabetic patients.

The CDC warned the public that  Type 2 diabetes, to be specific,  increases the risk of severe infection. On the other hand, Type 1 and gestational diabetes may increase the risk of severe illness.


Why do some survive COVID-19 while others don’t? Is it possible that obesity plays a role?

People who have large builds are not automatically obese. Medically, being obese means having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more.

In one study ,where the researchers analyzed COVID-positive patients from New York whose ages were below 60, they found out that obese patients are twice more likely to be hospitalized than patients who have normal BMI.

Additionally, the results also showed that obese patients are 1.8 times more likely to receive critical care.

Heart Conditions

According to the CDC, people with serious heart conditions like coronary artery disease, heart failure, and cardiomyopathy have an increased risk of suffering from more serious COVID-19 infections.

However, doctors are still encouraging people with a normal, healthy heart to be careful. This is because the virus may “attack” a supposedly healthy heart and bring deadly complications.

For instance, the first COVID-related death in the US affected a 57-year old woman, who, by all means, and purposes had a healthy heart of normal size and weight.

Reports even stated that she worked out regularly to maintain her health. Apparently, the virus attacked her heart’s muscles, causing it to burst. This eventually led to her death.

Other Conditions that Increase Severe COVID-19 Infection Risk

Aside from heart conditions, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity, the following conditions also raise the risk of severe COVID-related complications:

  • Sickle cell disease
  • COPD or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Weakened immunity in relation to organ transplant
  • Chronic kidney disease

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Factors that May Affect Survival from COVID-19

Why do some survive COVID-19 even if they have underlying health conditions? Could it because of these factors?

  • Age. Although we’ve established being young is no guarantee of immunity, age is still an important factor to consider. In the US, 80% of the deaths occurred in patients 65 or older. The concept could be simple – the younger you are, the fewer health conditions you have. Additionally, younger people generally have stronger immune system to fight off infections.
  • Smoking. Smoking can lead to a number of diseases, so it’s not surprising that it’s also related to COVID-19. For one, smokers tend to be more prone to respiratory infections because of weakened immunity. Additionally, there was this study involving at least 1,000 patients in China. Results showed that 12.3% of smoker-participants either got confined to intensive care, used a ventilator, or died due to complications.
  • Blood Type. As surprising as it might be, blood type might affect a person’s susceptibility to the virus. Several studies show that people in the A-group (A+, A-, AB+, and AB-) are more at risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to people with O blood type. However, the researchers arrived at these findings by simply comparing the participants’ blood types.

why do some survive covid-19

Access to Good Health Care is Crucial

Why do some survive COVID-19 despite their aggravating circumstances? In many instances, these patients received the best health care.

Even if the conditions stated above affect the severity of the COVID infection, access to good health care is always crucial.

For mild symptoms, home confinement may be enough. However, for a patient with a significant infection, measures like medications, IV fluids, and even mechanical ventilators are vital.

Key Takeaways

So why do some survive COVID-19 while others die or suffer permanent damage? It is a combination of good health care and the body’s response to the virus.

Though we’re learning more each day, we’ll have to wait for more definitive answers. We still need more studies to prove how some factors affect the gravity of the illness. After all, the pandemic is still relatively new, despite the damage and deaths it has caused across the globe.

Learn more about COVID-19 here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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