Research published by the state health department in West Bengal found comorbidities proved lethal in a significant proportion of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.
As of December 3rd, 2020, 8,376 people in the state lost their lives to COVID-19 according to Statista. The state health department identified comorbidities such as hypertension, cardiac disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and nephrotic syndrome as having presented in a number of those who succumbed to COVID-19 in the state.
The state health department’s study, which covered the period from West Bengal’s first confirmed COVID-19 death in March until the final week of November, found hypertension to present in thirty percent of women who died of COVID-19 and in 28 percent of men. 24.5 percent of women and 24.2 percent of men presented with diabetes.
Of comorbidities more prevalent in male fatalities than female fatalities, cardiac disease was found in 10.6 percent of men and 8.3 percent of women. Nephrotic syndrome was found in 10.2 percent of males versus 9.7 percent of females. And COPD was found in 5.5 percent of males who succumbed to COVID-19 versus 3.9 percent of females.
Earlier this year, a survey in the West Bengal state capital of Kolkata found one person in four households were affected by comorbidities heightening their risk of serious complications if infected with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This came off the back of a finding that 85.5 percent of those who passed away due to COVID-19 were affected by comorbidities in the state. The latest findings buttress these earlier findings and highlight the need – not only in West Bengal, but India-wide – to identify those at higher risk and take measures to support them and ensure access to potentially life-saving treatment.
Comorbidities are a major cause of global concern amidst COVID-19, predisposing those affected to a higher risk of severe symptoms. Earlier this year, research estimated more than one in five people worldwide to have at least one comorbidity making them more susceptible to a severe or critical case of the disease. India must take note of the severity of the implications such findings carry, with 21.5 percent of its population living with an underlying condition that makes them vulnerable.
As I wrote for Health Issues India at the time, “India grapples with a dual burden of disease, experiencing high rates of both noncommunicable and communicable diseases. As COVID-19 cases in the country continue to rise, it is of vital importance that the needs of especially vulnerable populations be considered.” This need has far from gone away. The latest findings from West Bengal underscore this.