PAHO director warns of ‘deadly’ NCDs, COVID-19 relationship

DR CARISSA ETIENNE. (AD)

WARNING that countries could face a “parallel epidemic”, director of the Pan American Health Organization Dr Carissa Etienne is calling on the region to ramp up efforts to protect individuals with underlying medical conditions, even as it battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the parallel epidemic would be “of preventable deaths of persons with non-communicable diseases (NCDs)”.

“One of the most concerning aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the disproportionate impact of the virus on people suffering from non-communicable diseases or NCDs, namely hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, asthma, and other respiratory diseases, in addition to obesity. We have never seen such a deadly relationship between an infectious disease and NCDs,” Dr Etienne said on Tuesday.

The PAHO director, who was speaking during a virtual briefing, said, “Some of the data are truly alarming, especially for a region where NCDs are pervasive.”

She said studies in China, where the virus first erupted, show that more than 28 per cent of cancer patients who contracted COVID-19 died, compared with only two per cent of overall patients.

Already, based on data, there are 1.2 million people living with cancer in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dr Etienne said a review of more than 16,000 patients with COVID-19 found that people with diabetes were twice as likely to have severe disease or to die.

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