‘45% COVID-19 victims had no comorbidities’

Mortality data show more deaths in younger age segments

At least 45% of patients who succumbed during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic had no underlying comorbid conditions, according to a mortality analysis undertaken by the Health Department.

The study, which examined a total of 866 deaths that occurred till May 31 during the second wave, found that while 461 patients had some form of comorbidity — most commonly diabetes mellitus, hypertension or chronic renal disease — 404 patients had no underlying risk. No data was available in the case of one patient, a document prepared by the Health Department noted.

This is also the point in the mortality graph where the second wave has pulled away to differentiate itself from the chart of the first wave of COVID-19 that began in January-March in 2020. The other departure was in the high proportions of deaths in the younger age segments with the study finding that 32.2% of casualties were in the 45-60 age group.

The age-wise mortality charts showed that 8.5% were in the 19-44 years age bracket and 1.1% in the 6-18 age group. Taken together, almost 42% of second wave deaths was among those less than 60 years.

However, those above 60 years of age continued to constitute the demographic at the highest mortality risk (59%). Gender-wise, 58% of victims were men and about 42% women.

One of the other significant findings was that all patients had been tested for COVID-19 only upon reaching the hospital after they had already developed near full-stage disease with acute symptoms, including breathlessness and chest pain.

“We found that patients who develop classical signs such as fever, fatigue or dry cough manage with self-medication at home for the first four or five days. By the time they reach a hospital, we may have missed the golden window for timely intervention," said T. Arun, Health Secretary.

Pointing out that late hospitalisation was the single most important factor driving the mortality among COVID-19 patients, which was the case in the first and the second wave, the official said this was borne out by empirical evidence.

While 660 patients (76%) died within a week of hospitalisation, 105 (12.2%) were so ill that they could not make it past 24 hours of admission. The mortality risk tapered off in proportion with the longer duration of hospital stay with a total of 72 patients succumbing to complications after a period of two weeks or more of hospitalisation. “We have been trying to address this area of concern in all our public messaging by urging the public to get tested as soon as they get early signs of discomfort,” Mr. Arun said.

Once a person volunteers for testing, it activates the health system to take over from there — from triaging, home monitoring or hospitalisation. Health teams which make house visits and youth volunteers engaged in tele-triaging, documentation of parameters, contact tracing, and interfacing with the War Room has proved to be a model that is working well.“It is remarkable that we have not registered a single home isolation death so far,” an official said.

Lt. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan had the other day revealed the findings that an estimated 95% of those requiring oxygen-supported ICU admission were not vaccinated while the remaining 5% were those who had taken the jab recently.

A closer look at the data on the vaccination status of hospitalised patients (oxygen and ventilator bed) showed that while 97% were non-vaccinated, 1% had taken a single dose and 2% had completed both doses.

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