Diabetes a main cause of Covid-19 deaths, say experts

PETALING JAYA: Covid-19 cases involving the brought-in-dead (BID) have been rising, with 597 BID cases recorded between Dec 2 last year and March 3 – and the biggest culprit in these cases could be diabetes and hypertension.

Experts say that when a person has chronic illnesses including diabetes, it can decrease their immunity and the body’s resistance against infection, leading to a coma and sudden death.

Statistics show that four out of every 10 people who died from Covid-19 in 2021 had diabetes.

According to the Health Ministry’s GitHub portal, BID cases made up 25% (or 597) of the total 2,399 deaths during the Omicron wave.

Of the 597 BID cases, 77% or 462 had comorbidities.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Thursday that 91% of BID cases in Malaysia had not even been aware that they had been infected with Covid-19.

This was based on an analysis by the Health Ministry on 113 BID cases between Feb 5 and 21.

Of the total 33,028 Covid-19 deaths in the country so far, 78% had comorbidities, with many having non-communicable diseases (NCDs).Diabetes is one of the major non-communicable diseases in Malaysia, with one out of five people living with the disease. This translates to 3.9 million people aged 18 and above.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 found that 18.3% of Malaysian adults have the disease, with the percentage rising from previous years, from 11.2% in 2011 and 13.4% in 2015.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia health economics, hospital and health management Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh said this was worrying as Malaysia’s healthcare faced a huge burden with NCD cases.

“During this pandemic, people worry less about general health, especially groups such as the B40 as they are more focused on basic needs such as food and shelter.

“Because of this, many are unaware that they have an underlying disease,” she added.

She said access to health screening and medication for low-income and minority groups, such as persons with disabilities and single mothers, had to be improved.

Such measures, she said, could help reduce cases of severe Covid-19 or deaths as people could take the necessary steps if they were aware of their medical condition.

Dr Sharifa Ezat added that those at high risk of severe Covid-19, such as the elderly and those with comorbidities, should be tested for Covid-19 regularly to reduce BID cases.

Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah reiterated that when a person had chronic illnesses, including diabetes, it could decrease their immunity and the body’s resistance against infection.He said Covid-19 would cause inflammation of internal organs in people with uncontrolled diabetes and lead to sepsis and septic shock.

“People with diabetes must first control their sugar intake, take their medication, exercise regularly and eat nutritious food and vitamins to boost their immunity,” he said.

This, he added, was on top of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and following standard operating procedures such as wearing face masks, ensuring hand hygiene and avoiding crowded places.

Universiti Putra Malaysia public health specialist Dr Malina Osman said a person with more medical problems had a higher risk of severe Covid-19 complications.

“Most patients with diabetes would also have other chronic diseases such as hypertension and heart problems, putting them at higher risk of severe Covid-19,” she said.

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Source: The Star, (https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2022/03/05/diabetes-a-main-cause-of-covid-19-deaths-say-experts)

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