How comorbidities sway COVID-19 severity in Mexico

73% of the Mexicans who died from COVID-19 had at least one comorbidity

How comorbidities sway COVID-19 severity in Mexico
A health worker measures the blood pressure of a patient at the COVID-19 zone of a hospital in Atizapán, Mexico - Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP
English 06/06/2020 13:17 Daniela Guazo Mexico City Actualizada 13:56
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A pattern rose by the hand of the figures of cases and fatalities due to COVID-19 in Mexico: 73% of those who died have at least one comorbidity and conditions such as COPD and chronic kidney disease turned out to be Ddeadliest when combined with the new virus, according to an analysis carried out by EL UNIVERSAL.

In Mexico, there is an 11% case fatality rate, according to the latest calculations by the federal government, and although it was explained that that number is overestimated since the real number of cases in the country is unknown, it was found that presenting certain chronic diseases triple the risk of dying.

A clear example is shown in the case of COPD: out of the 1,558 patients with COVID-19 with that condition, 30%, that is, 481, died, according to the information published until May 27 by the Health Ministry (SSA).

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With 15 million Mexicans who have hypertension and where diabetes is considered as the second cause of death at a national level, with 70% of the population with obesity and where 20,000 Mexicans died every year from COPD, experts stress that these people should have priority to be tested. “We’re not saying to test 127 million Mexicans, but to test those sectors that need to be prioritized, such as elderly people or those with some kind of diseases… there should be tests for them,” asserts Laurie Ann Ximénez, head of the Molecular Laboratory of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and doctor in Microbiology by Harvard.

Moreover, together, these comorbidities lead to much faster progress of the virus. Patients who did not have a previous health condition and who got infected with COVID-19 died, on average, within 11 days, whereas those who had three comorbidities in their medical record died in nine days. Having several comorbidities increases the fatality rate of COVID-19; it was found that 20% of the Mexicans who contracted coronavirus while having two comorbidities died.

During the pandemic, it has been observed that each population has characteristics that put it at risk. Italy, for instance, is the country with the highest number of elderly people, which was seen in the characteristics of those who passed away. In Mexico, comorbidities at a weak point, however, this is not new for health authorities.

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“What the government wants to do is to transfer all the responsibility to the population… How can we do better if there are so many fat people and people with diabetes? Knowing beforehand that you have a population with high indexes of diseases considered as the main comorbidities for COVID-19, they should have acted cogently since the beginning.

90% of the responsibility for these numbers belongs to the government,” as explains the head of the UNAM’S Molecular laboratory.

Two out of 10 Mexicans who tested positive for COVID-19 and who had hypertension or diabetes died. The double risk experienced by this population is that there is a vast percentage of Mexicans with these conditions without knowing it. It is esteemed that 10% of Mexicans who are older than 40 years old have COPD without knowing about it and that there are nearly 10 million Mexicans who ignore they have diabetes.

This landscape complicates the herd immunity strategy, a plan that was considered in April: “You need 70% of the population to be immune for there to be herd immunity (…) it would require not to implement any measure, to let the virus flow and wait over 18 months to reach that number” as explains expert Laurie Ann Ximénez. The calculations are shocking: if 70% of 127 million Mexicans get infected, we would have nearly 89 million infections. Out of them, 5% would be critically-ill (some 4 million) and 80% of them would not survive. There is no health system that can handle that situation.

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