President Donald Trump’s announcement Friday morning that he and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19 raised concerns that the U.S. leader will develop severe complications from the virus.
Trump currently has "mild symptoms," White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said, as does the first lady.
The president has several preexisting conditions that put him at a higher risk of becoming severely ill, including his age, weight, gender and a history of a mild heart condition.
Trump’s age of 74 is on the higher end of the Centers for Disease Control’s high-risk category. According to the federal health agency, people in the 65-74 age range are at a five times higher risk of hospitalization and a 90 times greater risk of death compared to young adults aged 18 to 29.
And men in particular are up to twice as likely to die from COVID-19 compared to women. Men, generally, are more susceptible to disease than women, likely due to a difference in their immune systems.
“Women’s immune responses in general tend to be stronger,” Dr. Emily Gurley, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, previously told PEOPLE. “We’ve known about that for a long time, but we don’t know exactly how it’s playing out in COVID-19.”
Obesity is also the second-highest risk factor of severe COVID-19 disease after old age, according to multiple studies from around the world. The inflammation that obesity creates in the body tends to lead to worse reactions to COVID-19.
At Trump’s most recent physical in April, his physician said that the president weighs 244 lbs. and is 6 ft., 3 in. tall. That puts him just slightly past overweight into the obese range, based on the body mass index scale.
Trump is also currently taking medication to help with his slightly elevated blood pressure and cholesterol level, CNN reported. And during his 2018 physical, Trump had a heart scan to check on calcium buildup in his heart and scored 133; anything above 100 is an indication of heart disease, though a mild, common form manageable with medication.
COVID-19, though, is an unpredictable disease. Some people will have severe outcomes — and as of Friday, at least 207,699 Americans have died of the virus — but the vast majority survive, even those at Trump’s age.
Still, the side effects can be difficult. Most symptoms appear two to 14 days after exposure, and can include fatigue, difficulty breathing, cough and fever. In more severe cases, people develop pneumonia, deadly blood clots and brain infections that can require hospitalization, use of a ventilator and surgery. And many of those who recover report continued symptoms for months after their infection.
At this point, there is no cure for COVID-19, but there are treatments that help in severe cases, such as remdesivir, an antiviral drug, and the steroid dexamethasone.
Trump has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the virus, saying as recently as September 21 — when U.S. COVID-19 deaths were just under 200,000 — that it "affects virtually nobody."
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