People with diabetes are twice as likely to have a serious illness or die, and 28% of cancer patients who got Covid-19 died, compared to 2% of patients overall, the Organization reported. Pan American Health (PAHO).
Smoking also increases the likelihood of serious Covid-19 disease.
PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said Tuesday that the response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Region of the Americas should include care for chronic diseases, since 1 in 4 people is at increased risk of have poor results due to underlying non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Measures of staying home, interruptions in the delivery of health care services, as well as fear of attending care centers have led to a reduction in elective visits to clinics and less access to kidney dialysis , cancer care and delays in high-priority treatments for patients with NCDs.
Many health workers who normally provide care for people with chronic diseases “have been redirected to the COVID-19 response, which negatively affected the timely diagnosis and treatment of NCDs,” added the Director of PAHO.
Reduced access to care due to interruptions in health services “puts patients at greater risk of complications and death from diseases that we know how to treat”, and health systems must find ways to respond “or we will face a parallel epidemic of preventable deaths of people with NCDs,” he explained.
Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic metabolic disease characterized by elevated blood glucose (hyperglycemia). It is associated with an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin production and/or action.
There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common, accounting for approximately 85% to 90% of all cases. It is related to modifiable risk factors such as obesity or overweight, physical inactivity, and high calorie diets with low nutritional value.
Metabolic Syndrome is characterized by the presence of prediabetes in conjunction with another risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as hypertension, upper body obesity, or dyslipidemia.
More than 2.4 million cases and more than 143,000 deaths have made the Region of the Americas the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In South America, “We are particularly concerned that the number of new cases reported last week in Brazil has been the highest in a seven-day period since the outbreak began. Both Peru and Chile are also reporting a high incidence,” said Etienne.
For most countries in the Americas, “Now is not the time to relax restrictions or reduce preventive strategies. Now is the time to stand firm, remain vigilant and aggressively apply proven public health measures,” he added.
Before COVID-19, 81% of all deaths in the Region of the Americas were due to NCDs, and 39% of these deaths were premature as they occurred before the age of 70.
Dr. Etienne indicated that it was important to find safe methods to provide essential clinical care to people with NCDs during the pandemic. “For example, many countries are rapidly expanding telemedicine, prioritizing scheduled appointments to avoid crowded waiting rooms, and providing services in novel ways.”
“We must also ensure timely access to chronic disease care to prevent them from being life-threatening. PAHO is working with countries in the region and providing guidance to help plan and implement these measures. As cases continue to rise in our region, our efforts to protect people with underlying conditions must be intensified,” he said.