Donald Trump’s age and weight may cause Covid complications, doctors say

Doctors have warned that the US president, Donald Trump, has numerous factors placing him at risk of complications from Covid-19, including his age and being overweight.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie standing next to a woman: Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters

The 74-year-old on Friday announced on Twitter that he and his wife, Melania Trump, had both tested positive for the virus. A study published in March in medical journal, The Lancet, found that while the overall death rate for people with Covid-19 was 1.4%, this rose to 8.6% for people in their 70s. The study was based on data from China.

Dr Barry Dixon, an intensive care physician at St Vincent’s hospital in Melbourne, said Trump’s risk would increase if he developed pneumonia, which is associated with a high Covid-19 mortality rate, especially in patients over 65 and those who have cardiovascular disease or conditions affecting blood vessels of the brain.

“He’s at a much higher risk of dying if he does develop that bad pneumonia,” Dixon said. “There are other risk factors and co-morbidities such as whether you are a heavy smoker, have diabetes, or have heart disease. The key risk factors for Trump that we know about are his age and the fact he’s overweight, and they’d be high-risk factors.”

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie standing next to a woman: US president Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus on 2 October.

© Photograph: Tom Brenner/Reuters
US president Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus on 2 October.

Dixon said mild symptoms at onset were not an indicator that someone would avoid more severe disease. He said it was around the one-week mark where people either seemed to improve or decline rapidly.

“We tend to see people with very mild symptoms for the first week, that is typical, and in the second week typically people either develop pneumonia or not,” he said.

“If you see someone who just got it, they’ve just tested positive, typically they look well. But we would tell those patients to isolate at home and to come to hospital if they feel short of breath. Because in that second week of the virus, people can go from looking very good to pretty rotten even over just 24 to 48 hours.

“It’s a quick deterioration, and that’s what we saw with [British prime minister] Boris Johnson.”

Infectious diseases physician Prof Peter Collignon said he would have concerns for “anyone with Covid” given there was mortality associated with the virus.

Related: Donald Trump tests positive for Covid-19: what we know and don’t know

“My advice would be first of all, check his underlying conditions such as heart and lung conditions, and from there you’d make an assessment of whether he stays home or goes to hospital,” he said.

“If he’s well enough to walk and breathe OK, then he’d be fine to go home for a while. But a proportion will deteriorate between five to seven days later, so you’d need to monitor how he is breathing and how he looks.”

Prof Collignon said for those that developed pneumonia and blood clots in their lungs, and who were admitted to intensive care, there was a slightly higher survival rate now compared with early in the pandemic.

“People are being better treated with supportive care now as we learn a bit more about the virus,” he said.

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