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Comorbidities and COVID-19: One person in every four households affected

COVID-19 Treatment, Transmission, Spreading, Symptoms, Testing and Risks Concept. Chart with keywords and icons on white desk with stationery. Coronavirus symptoms illustration. Asymptomatic example. Image credit: tumsasedgars / 123rf
Image credit: tumsasedgars / 123rf

One person in every four households are affected by comorbidities that could amplify the risk of severe COVID-19, the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or simply coronavirus.

The data comes from the West Bengal state capital of Kolkata, where a survey of as many as 85,000 people found that approximately one person in every four households is affected by a condition such as hypertension, elevated blood sugar, heart disease, or a kidney ailment. The survey that indicated this figure was conducted by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), which found that around sixty percent of those with comorbidities flagged by the study are senior citizens. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, comorbidities have been identified as a major red flag for those likely to experience severe effects of the disease. Those with underlying conditions and/or in the age demographic designated as elderly are known to be at risk of developing serious or critical COVID-19 as opposed to the overwhelming majority of those infected with the novel coronavirus who are in mild condition. 

As reported in June by Health Issues India, more than one in five people worldwide are at risk of serious and/or critical COVID-19 due to underlying conditions. We cited research published in The Lancet which found that 22 percent of the global population – translating to 1.7 billion people – live with a condition predisposing them to severe complications if they were infected with the virus. 

India – given its dual burden of disease, carrying substantive numbers of people affected by noncommunicable and infectious conditions – is in a particularly perilous situation. As I wrote at the time that the research published in The Lancet was released

“In India, 21.5 percent of the population is considered to have at least one underlying condition relevant to the severity of COVID-19 should they become infected with the coronavirus. India grapples with a dual burden of disease, experiencing high rates of both noncommunicable and communicable diseases. As COVID-19 cases in the country continue to rise, it is of vital importance that the needs of especially vulnerable populations be considered – an urgency underscored by the relaxation of lockdown restrictions in some areas of the country.” 

This pandemic comes as uncharted territory for virtually every nation. Ensuring that we safeguard ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, and our countries is the need of the hour. The data from Kolkata reinforces this, as we know that – while nobody is truly safe from the risk of COVID-19 – there are some who are in heightened danger.

The survey carried out by the KMC was directed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee following the finding that 85.5 percent of those who died due to COVID-19 were also affected by comorbidities. At the national level, it was reported in early August, comorbidities contributed to almost 82 percent of COVID-19 deaths. This data is alarming – and must be considered in the national, state- and union territory-level, and local level response to the pandemic of our lifetimes.

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