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Clinical Characteristics and Risk Factors for COVID-19 Infection and Disease Severity: A Nationwide Observational Study in Estonia
28 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2021More...
Background: COVID-19 pandemic has required overloading of health systems all over the world. For reliable risk stratification, knowledge on factors predisposing to SARS-CoV-2 infection and to severe COVID-19 disease course is needed for decision-making at the individual, provider, and government levels. Data to identify these factors should be easily obtainable.
Methods: Retrospective cohort study of nationwide e-health databases in Estonia. We used longitudinal health records from 66,295 people tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA from 26 February 2020 to 28 February 2021 and 254,958 randomly selected controls from the reference population with no known history of SARS-CoV-2 infection or clinical COVID-19 diagnosis (case to control ratio 1:4) to predict risk factors of infection and severe course of COVID-19. We analysed sociodemographic and health characteristics of study participants.
Findings: The SARS-CoV-2 infection risk was slightly higher among women, and was higher among those with comorbid conditions or obesity. Dementia (RRR 3.77, 95%CI 3.30⎼4.31), renal disease (RRR 1.88, 95%CI 1.56⎼2.26), and cerebrovascular disease (RRR 1.81, 95%CI 1.64⎼2.00) increased the risk of infection. Of all SARS-CoV-2 infected people, 92% had a non-severe disease course, 4.8% severe disease (requiring hospitalisation), 1.7% critical disease (needing intensive care), and 1.5% died. Male sex, increasing age and comorbid burden contributed significantly to more severe COVID-19, and the strength of association for male sex increased with the increasing severity of COVID-19 outcome. The strongest contributors to critical illness (expressed as RRR with 95% CI) were renal disease (7.71, 4.71⎼12.62), the history of previous myocardial infarction (3.54, 2.49⎼5.02) and obesity (3.56, 2.82⎼4.49). The strongest contributors to a lethal outcome were renal disease (6.48, 3.74⎼11.23), cancer (3.81, 3.06⎼4.75), liver disease (3.51, 1.36⎼9.02) and cerebrovascular disease (3.00, 2.31⎼3.89).
Interpretation: We found divergent effect of age and gender on infection risk and severity of COVID-19 ⎼ age and gender did not contribute substantially to infection risk, but did so for the risk of severe disease. Co-morbid health conditions, especially those affecting renin-angiotensin system, had impact on both, the risk of infection and severe disease course. Age and male sex had the most significant impact on the risk of severe COVID-19.
Funding Information: Research was carried out with the support of Estonian Research Council, European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund via IT Academy programme.
Declaration of Interests: The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest.
Ethics Approval Statement: The study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the University of Tartu.
Keywords: COVID-19, severe disease, hospitalization, death, health factors, comorbidity, chronic disease
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation