Covid-19 death data highlights need to check young-old transmission

This trend was borne out by data of deaths classified by age and pre-existing illnesses, which is also a known factor that raises the likelihood of fatalities (as does being male). The data corresponded to the first 90,000 fatalities in India.
Healthcare workers during Covid-19 screening and swab test at Goregaon in Mumbai.(Satyabrata Tripathy/Hindustan Times)
Healthcare workers during Covid-19 screening and swab test at Goregaon in Mumbai.(Satyabrata Tripathy/Hindustan Times)
Updated on Oct 03, 2020 07:16 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

At least 88% of Covid-19 fatalities in India are in people above the age of 45 – with those above 60 accounting for most of the deaths among these – but this age band accounts for less than half (40%) of infections, data from the Union health ministry showed. The data suggests that Indians must take precautions to ensure its younger population, which appears to be more prone to being infected, does not pass it on to older people, who have higher odds of succumbing.

This trend was borne out by data of deaths classified by age and pre-existing illnesses, which is also a known factor that raises the likelihood of fatalities (as does being male). The data corresponded to the first 90,000 fatalities in India.

“What we need to understand about this virus is that it is highly contagious and that everyone is equally exposed to it. It may seem like those who are more likely to be mobile are the ones most affected but we are seeing that even if one family member is infected and brings the infection home then all family members are likely to contract the infection,” says Sanjay Rai, professor, community medicine department, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi.

At least 70% of all people who have died have had at least one co-morbidity, according to morbidity statistics from the Union government. Men make up for a clear majority of the dead at 70%.

Infection statistics show a markedly different trend: at least 60% of all Covid-19 infections in India have been among people below the age of 45 years, and at least half of the infected people have been between the ages of 18 and 44. Pre-existing diseases raising the risk of severe or fatal Covid-19 include hypertension, diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, asthma, chronic renal disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), low immunity, malignancy, bronchitis and chronic neuromuscular disease.

Hypertension and diabetes are the two most common comorbidities that lead to the disease progressing to severe levels among Covid-19 patients.

Experts, however, said they expect a clearer picture about the fatality trends once states become better in terms of surveillance concerning Covid-19 cases. “Sometimes during an outbreak, data surveillance takes time to pick up at some places. It is normal but gains momentum with experience as the outbreak progresses. It needs to be monitored carefully though,” said Dr Giridhara Babu, head, epidemiology division, Indian Institute of Public Health, Public Health Foundation of India.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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