Coronavirus: One in five worldwide has health condition that raises risk of complications
A woman wears a mask in a gallery in London. (Getty Images)
It is believed that one in five people worldwide has a health condition that carries an increased risk of coronavirus complications.
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Scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) modeled data from 188 countries.
The results, published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet Global Health, show that 1.7 billion people, or 22% of the world's population, have at least one underlying health problem.
Most of these people would likely still have a relatively moderate infection, with 349 million (4%) expected to be hospitalized.
Early research suggests that in four out of five cases, coronavirus is mild but can trigger a respiratory disease called COVID-19.
The vast majority of deaths worldwide occurred in the elderly or people with pre-existing health problems.
A woman is wearing a mask in Rome. (Getty Images)
Every fifth person has a condition that increases the risk of complications.
It is known that certain conditions make people more susceptible to coronavirus complications.
For example, blood cancer can suppress the immune system.
Because the coronavirus is a respiratory infection, respiratory diseases like asthma can also be serious.
These patients made up some of the 1.5 million British people who were told at the beginning of the ban to completely isolate themselves at home for three months.
To learn more, the LSHTM scientists examined data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2017; as well as estimates of the UN population for 2020.
22% were at risk of serious illness, defined as "patient with severe acute respiratory illness (fever and at least one sign / symptom of a respiratory illness, e.g. cough, shortness of breath; and hospitalization required)".
The most vulnerable live in countries with an aging population or an African nation with a high prevalence of HIV or AIDS.
"The proportion of the population at increased risk of severe COVID-19 is generally lower in Africa than elsewhere due to the much younger rural population, but a much higher proportion of severe cases could be fatal in Africa than elsewhere," said study author Professor Andrew Clark.
Small islands with many diabetics such as Fiji and Mauritius were also classified as risky.
Overall, 5% of the under 20s make up part of the 1.7 billion, compared to 66% of the over 70s.
Those of working age between 15 and 64 years are believed to have almost a quarter (23%) with at least one underlying disease.
This was similar between the sexes, but the scientists assumed that men need hospitalization twice as often if they are infected.
Masculinity was identified as a risk factor for coronavirus complications at the beginning of the outbreak.
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"Time to develop from a unified approach"
Of the 349 million people who need hospital infection, the risk ranges from less than 1% in people under 20 and almost 20% in people over 70. For men over 70, this value increases to 25%.
For all age groups under 65, about twice as many men as women would have to be hospitalized.
The ratio is less pronounced over 65. This is because women are overrepresented due to their longer life expectancy.
“Our estimates suggest that age-based shielding thresholds could play a role in reducing deaths and the number of people in need of hospital care. However, the choice of threshold must also be weighed against the proportion of people of working age affected as the health and economic consequences that could be associated with long periods of isolation, ”said study author Dr. Rosalind Eggo.
As countries step out of the blockade, scientists hope governments will find ways to protect the most vulnerable.
"We hope that our estimates will provide a useful starting point for developing measures to protect people at risk for serious illnesses," said Professor Clark.
"This could mean counseling people with underlying conditions, taking social detachment measures appropriate to their level of risk, or prioritizing them for future vaccination."
The researchers emphasized that they focused on diseases rather than other factors that affect the risk of COVID-19, such as a black, Asian, or ethnic background.
Professor Nina Schwalbe of Columbia University wrote in a linked comment: “A better understanding of risk factors, including the impact of social determinants and how they work together, offers the opportunity to develop targeted mitigation strategies and helps to dispel the common misconception of everyone about the same risk for serious illnesses.
“As the authors note, it is time to move from a unified approach to one that focuses on the most vulnerable. This has to be done on an individual as well as on a municipal level.
“Given the relevance of social determinants, such an approach requires an urgent improvement in communication via COVID-19. Improving access to health services, including palliative care, for those who are already socially at risk; and provide economic support to deal with the reduction. "
People wear masks outside of Primark in Birmingham. (Getty Images)
What is the corona virus?
The corona virus is one of seven strains of a virus class that are known to infect humans.
Others cause everything from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which killed 774 people at the outbreak of 2002/03.
Since the coronavirus outbreak was identified in late 2019, more than 7.9 million cases have been confirmed worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
It is known that over 3 million of these cases have recovered.
Worldwide, the death toll has exceeded 434,000.
The corona virus spreads mainly face to face through infected droplets that are expelled by coughing or sneezing.
There is also evidence that it is transmitted in feces and can survive on surfaces.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and loss of taste or smell.
COVID-19 has no "fixed" treatment, since most patients naturally resist this.
Those who need to be hospitalized are given “supportive care” such as ventilation while their immune system is working.
Officials are asking people to ward off infection by washing their hands regularly and maintaining social distance.
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