More than 2,000 of the Covid-19 deaths reported so far are from the 50-90 years age group - to be precise, 1,716 (78%) of the 2,190 deaths have been reported until June 14. With this age group, along with COVID-19, other comorbidities come into play, health experts point out. They have diabetes, hypertension and other issues and most of them reach hospital 8-10 days after showing symptoms, thus making the treatment further difficult.
According to the data provided by the public health department of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the first fortnight of June has been the cruelest period in the state, with 1,623 lives being lost in the pandemic. In contrast, there were 1,827 deaths recorded in the entire month of May. “367 of 1,623 Covid deaths were of those in the 40-60 years age group and while 485 people were above 60 years of age,” said an official.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said they have seen diabetes, high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, heart disease, cancer and lung disease in a significant percentage of deaths. Having one or more of those conditions increases a person’s risk of severe symptoms. “What we have seen is people reaching hospitals at the very last minute, the comorbidities combined with coronavirus impacting their health further. Some patients have spent less than two hours at the hospital before they succumbed,” he said.
“However, the low case fatality among younger people indicates that most of them were cured of the infection, whereas those above 60 and with co-morbidities were more vulnerable, with a higher death rate, even as the number of cases among the elderly remained low,” Kakani added.
The fact that diabetes has emerged as the leading co-morbidity among those felled by the disease in India is significant, given the fact that an estimated 9.4 per cent of the country is diabetic — 12 per cent of the urban population and nearly 8 per cent of rural — according to an ICMR study on the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension. The same study also showed that up to 30 per cent of the population — 33 per cent in urban and 28 per cent in rural areas had higher than normal blood pressure. While a combination of diabetes and hypertension is bad enough as a risk factor, what makes it worse is that this risk increases with age.
A civic doctor involved in the treatment of Covid-19 cases said many patients had uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension and by the time they reached hospitals, they had very low oxygen saturation levels, which contributed to their rapid deterioration. “We have seen most of the patients with blood sugar levels as high as 400, which makes their treatment difficult. Moreover, the elderly with comorbidities are usually vulnerable to all kinds of influenza because of low immunity and they need to be more careful to protect themselves from getting infected. But even the young must be particular about social and physical distancing, as they will eventually move out to work once the lockdown is entirely lifted.