Patients With IDD at a Higher Risk of Succumbing to COVID-19

People with Intellectual or Developmental Disability (IDD) are at high risk of succumbing to COVID-19, research conducted by Stony Brook University in New York has found.

According to the database used in the research, coronavirus claimed the lives of just 3 percent of patients aged between 18 and 74 who did not have an IDD, compared to 4.5 percent of IDD patients.

The study found that among people aged 75 and up, there was little disparity in terms of COVID-19 fatalities: about one-fifth of both IDD and non-IDD COVID-19 patients died as a result of the virus.

But compared to people of similar age in the general population, viral death rates were notably higher among IDD patients between the ages of 18 to 75, the study found and much higher among IDD patients under 18.

The research further indicates that IDD patients 18 years and younger are more likely to die from the virus, compared to their young non-IDD peers.

Margaret Turk, a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation who led the research said that while almost no non-IDD patients under the age of 18 died from COVID-19, "among IDD patients the death rated amounted to 1.6 out of every 100 infections."

Commenting on the research, Michelle Ballan, the associate dean of research at the Institution, described group homes for such patients as a perfect storm, especially due to their hazardous nature.

“People with IDD frequently rely on hands-on assistance from other people with daily self-care tasks, mking social distancing particularly challenging. This also further increases risk of disease transmission,” Ballan told Web MD.

The research tracked the experience of more than 30,000 COVID-19 patients between January and May, including just fewer than 500 who were characterized as having an IDD.

IDD includes disabilities such as Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and other conditions.

About a third of the roughly 500 IDD patients had an intellectual disability, about 56 percent had a pervasive and specific developmental disorder, while 18 percent had cerebral palsy and 21 percent had a chromosomal abnormality – including 5 percent with Down Syndrome.

Ballan stressed the need to protect this very vulnerable group adding that there is a greater need for paid caregivers to look after them.

According to the associate dean, IDD patients often lack access to high-quality health care despite battling a host of additional concerns. These include diabetes, asthma, obesity, lung disorders  and heart disease.

“It is these conditions that have long been tied to higher odds for severe and even fatal COVID-19.”  

The findings were published in the Disability and Health Journal. 

Margaret Njuguna

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