There has never been a pandemic that has brought the world to a standstill like the novel coronavirus has over the past few months. But the fact remains that across the world, there are numerous other diseases that threaten lives at a much larger scale. India, where so far Covid-19 has claimed over 400 lives, is no exception.
To put the figures of coronavirus in perspective, tuberculosis alone kills an average of 4 lakh Indians annually, and the daily average of over 1,200 is way beyond the COVID-19 fatalities in the country. Follow LIVE Updates
According to the latest Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme Report, as many as 4.4 lakh people died in 2018 of TB, which is 29 per cent of the total 1.5 million deaths due to TB in the world. India features among the top eight countries with the highest number of TB cases.
Adding to this are the “million missing cases every year that are not notified, and most remain either undiagnosed or unaccountably and inadequately diagnosed”, states the National Strategic Plan for Tuberculosis Elimination 2017-25.
Interestingly, COVID-19 infections at present have a mortality rate of 3.3 per cent, far lower than the average 20.23 per cent rate of tuberculosis. This means that out of the total number of infected cases at a given time, 20 per cent of the patients succumb to the disease.
Similarly, the far more common and recurrent H1N1 seasonal flu kills more than a thousand people on average in the country. This too has a greater mortality rate at 4.25 per cent. Much like the COVID-19 pandemic, the symptoms of H1N1 include fever, sore throat, runny nose, and cough. In 2019, the number of cases doubled to 28,798 as compared to a year ago while the fatalities stood at 1,218.
According to the WHO, there have been three to five million cases of severe illness due to influenza, and about 290,000 to 650,000 respiratory deaths. Already 1,469 people in India have been affected by the communicable respiratory disease caused by a sub-type of influenza A virus, called H1N1, and 28 people have died, according to the National Centre for Disease Control data till March.
Since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, India has seen a steady number of H1N1 cases — in 2015, 42,592 cases and 2,991 deaths were reported; in 2017, 38,811 cases and 2,270 deaths were recorded.
While the coronavirus crisis has put in focus the capacity of the country’s healthcare system, heart, respiratory, diarrhoeal and chronic renal diseases kill lakhs of people each year. Interestingly, 86 per cent of those who died due to coronavirus had co-morbidities (additional medical conditions), such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney ailments etc, according to Health Ministry data.
In perspective, the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases is estimated to be around 54.5 million in the country and on an average kills 4,000 people daily, according to Global Burden of Disease data. India’s cardiovascular disease burden in 2017 was 4,716 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) per 100,000 population.
Vector-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) and Japanese encephalitis also continue to pose a challenge to the health system. While India continues to report lakhs of malaria and dengue cases each year, they have resulted in 1,055 and 1,094 deaths respectively over five years to 2019.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 219 million malaria cases and 4,35,000 related deaths in 2017. India accounts for 4 per cent of the global malaria burden even as the government has set a target to eradicate the disease by 2030.
Diagnosis and treatment of asymptomatic falciparum malaria cases continues to be a challenge for health care providers. Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand account for nearly 74 per cent of the total malaria cases reported in the country.
AES and Japanese encephalitis too have a high mortality rate of 9.07 per cent, triple of the coronavirus rate, if cases are considered from 2015 to 2019. In 2019, 16,758 cases were reported, including 963 deaths.
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