One of the big questions about COVID-19 is what it will do to the survivors’ organs.
Most people who get the virus that causes the disease survive. But one open question is what kind of effect mild COVID-19, or even asymptomatic COVID-19, might have on the health and lifespan of the survivors, in the long run.
COVID-19 typically causes coughing, and pneumonia. But it can also lead to damage in the brain, heart, kidneys and other organs.
A pandemic-related increase in kidney disease is one of the after-effects that could affect mortality levels over the next few years.
Kidney failure affected about 750,000 people per year in a pre-pandemic year in the United States before COVID-19 came along. Kidney failure can kill people quickly: The baseline annual mortality rate for people with severe end stage renal disease, or the kind of kidney disease that leads to transplants or dialysis, has been about 15% to 20%.
COVID-19 has increased the mortality rate for people getting dialysis by about 2 percentage points. That increase has been big enough to affect patient counts at DaVita, a big, publicly traded dialysis company.
To measure the effects of COVID-19 on the kidneys of the kinds of people who have commercial health coverage, or who apply for medically underwritten life insurance, insurance underwriters will need to know how many had kidney problems in 2019, before the pandemic appeared.
State-level prevalence rates for known kidney disease ranged from 1.81%, in Alaska and Colorado, up to more than 4% in five states, with a median of 2.9%, according to 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For a look at the 10 states where levels of known kidney disease were the highest in 2019, see the slideshow above.
Percentage of People in a State Who Have Been Told They Have Kidney Disease
|Overall||Adults With College Degrees||Adults With Household Income Over $50,000 per Year|
|Source: CDC. At press time, the BRFSS data table did not provide 2019 data for New Jersey.|