Coronavirus pandemic: Elderly more vulnerable to the disease; Here’s what doctors have to say

COVID-19: According to several studies carried out between February and March, cited by the World Economic Forum and Forbes, the elderly were more at risk of the coronavirus.

The previous highest single day increase of the infection was on April 20 when 1,540 cases were reported. India's first coronavirus case was reported on January 30.

Coronavirus pandemic: The coronavirus pandemic has left researchers and scientists perplexed over its origin and treatment. While the scientific and medical community is looking for a treatment, they are also giving out as much information as possible in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. Amidst this, several organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US’ Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have time and again released a list of the people most vulnerable to the pandemic – the elderly and those who suffer from underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes.

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According to several studies carried out between February and March, cited by the World Economic Forum and Forbes, the elderly were more at risk of the coronavirus, and if contracted, most likely to suffer from the severe ill-effects of the disease, too.

Dr Rajan Sharma, who is the National President of the Indian Medical Association, said, “The geriatric population is highly susceptible to COVID infection pertaining to both physical and social reasons. As we age our immune system also depletes gradually and likely for this reason, any elderly catching corona virus is more vulnerable to sail through the ill-effects of the virus. While the body’s fighting capacity would have reduced by this age (in comparison to others), in addition to the existing comorbidities like diabetes, respiratory ailments like asthma, COPD, chronic Bronchitis, etc, and heart ailments, among many other chronic ailments, elderly population is more susceptible as well as less prone to recover.”

“Patients with respiratory distress should immediately consult the doctor in emergency. Other symptoms include tiredness, fever, cough, and sore throat, difficulty in breathing, which should not be ignored and the patient should visit the hospital immediately. People above the age of 60 years should mandatorily follow social distancing, even at home.” said Dr Rakesh Chawla, Consultant, Respiratory Medicine at the Saroj Super Speciality Hospital.

These precautions are also enlisted on the CDC website, which states that if a person finds any symptoms of coronavirus, they should immediately call a doctor for consultation. Moreover, in case emergency warning signs of COVID-19 develop, then the patient should get medical attention immediately.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also issued an advisory last month stating that the elderly are more susceptible to catching the infection and then being prone to the severe ill-effects, and hence, advised that if an elderly person does develop symptoms, they should immediately go for medical consultation. However, the Ministry stated that the patient should avoid going to crowded patients and hence try to get a tele-consultation first.

The age-wise data released by the CDC about the COVID-19 deaths in the US, the number of deaths progressed as the age increase, with most deaths occurring in the age group of 65 to 74, 75 to 84 and 85 and above. Furthermore, the progression of number of deaths witnesses a steep increase in the 65-74 age group, after which the difference between the subsequent age groups is not as steep.

“As per various studies published in this situation, it is evident that the rate of mortality is directly linked with increasing age. While people above the age of 60 years are four times vulnerable to death, People above 70 are nine times vulnerable and 15 times, if the age is above 80 years. In addition to being elderly (above 60 years), those accompanied with existing heart conditions have around 12% increased chances of mortality due to COVDI-19 infection. And co-morbidity of diabetes and hypertension further raises the risk by upto 8 folds, attributing to the lowered immunity and decreased speed of body response to tackle inflammation with increased age along with viral myocarditis to some extent,” said Dr Bimal Chhajer, ex-consultant at AIIMS, New Delhi, and Director at SAAOL Heart Centre.

Listing out some dietary precautions that the elderly can take, Dr Monica Mahajan, Director of Internal Medicine at Max Healthcare said, “From the heart point of view, they should keep the risk factors like blood pressure and sugar at a safe level as much as possible. If they are non vegetarian, then they should prefer eating white meats like chicken and fish. They can eat egg whites but should discard the egg yolk. Moreover, they should also avoid red meat. Walking can be restricted at home and they should do yoga and meditation for half an hour on a daily basis. To boost up the immunity, they should take extra dose of antioxidants, vitamin C, haldi, amla, tulsi, plenty of vegetables, salads and fruits. First and foremost thing is to keep themselves well hydrated, so they should consume lot of liquids. The best way to increase the immunity is to make sure that they have a good amount of vitamin C in their diet.”

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