The mean age of the 827 coronavirus deaths in Italy until March 11 is 81 years and more than two-thirds of them had diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or cancer, or were former smokers, according to a paper published in Lancet Friday.
Outside China, Italy has been the worst hit by the virus with over 17,000 cases and 1266 deaths reported until Friday prompting WHO to declare Europe as the new epicentre of the pandemic.
Of the patients who died in Italy, 42.2% were aged 80-89 years, 32.4% were between 70 and 79 years, 8.4% were aged 60-69 and 2.8% were aged 50-59 years and those aged more than 90 made up 14.1%. The male to female ratio is 80% to 20% with an older median age for women (83.4 years for women vs 79.9 years for men).
While it is true that these patients had underlying health conditions, it is also worth noting that they were affected by “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pneumonia, needed respiratory support and would not have died otherwise,” said the paper by researchers Andrea Remuzzi of the University of Bergamo and Giuseppe Remuzzi of the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri.
Explained: Why Italy has imposed a nationwide lockdown
These findings are in line with the WHO’s assessment that elderly persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others. Based on information coming out of Wuhan, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention also put older adults and patients of heart disease, lung disease and diabetes as being at highest risk.
India has recorded two deaths. On Tuesday, a 76-year old man died in Karnataka. Health officials say he was suffering from hypertension and asthma and had been discharged against medical advice. On Friday, a 68-year-old woman died in Delhi after being on ventilator support for four days “due to comorbid conditions”. The only two patients in the country on which a drug combination usually used in HIV, have been used for the treatment of COVID-2019 are an elderly Italian couple, one of whom had to be put on a ventilator after his condition took a turn for the worse. The drugs have been approved for use in the disease in case of a public health emergency.
The study in Lancet looks at the available resources in Italy in terms of beds, machines and manpower and paints a grim picture. In Italy, of the current 5200 beds in ICUs, more than 1000 are devoted to patients with coronavirus infection. The study says that if current exponential trends continue for the next few days, “more than 2500 hospital beds for patients in intensive care units will needed in only one week.” And there could be as many as 30,000 infected patients.
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