Over all, the death rate among all patients with Covid-19 was 0.6 percent. By contrast, 1.22 percent of those with developmental disorders and Covid-19 died, as did 3.37 percent of those with intellectual disabilities.
In addition to the high risk to people with developmental disorders, lung cancer and intellectual disabilities, people with spina bifida and other nervous system anomalies were twice as likely to die of Covid-19. So were patients with leukemia and lymphoma.
Chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, colorectal cancer, mobility impairment, epilepsy, heart failure, spinal cord injury and liver disease were also associated with an increased risk of death.
The report is not the first to highlight the unique risks that individuals with developmental disorders and intellectual disabilities face in the pandemic. Scientists at Syracuse University reported in June that people with these disabilities who were living in group homes in New York State had far higher rates of Covid-19, compared with other state residents, and that their risk of dying was markedly higher, as well.
The population is uniquely vulnerable for several reasons. Many live in group homes or receive care from aides, therapists or teachers who must maintain close physical proximity in order to assist them. Between 16 percent and 20 percent live in congregate settings, compared with only 6 percent of seniors, said Scott Landes, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University and an author of that study.
Many are medically frail to begin with, with high rates of underlying health conditions, particularly respiratory problems. That makes them susceptible to pneumonia, increasing the risk for severe illness if they become infected with Covid.
Individuals with Down syndrome are more likely to have congenital heart defects; they may have less muscle tone around the neck and a larger tongue, increasing the risk of choking frequently and developing lung infections.