Since COVID-19 began its dangerous spread, health authorities are concerned about the safety of around 300 million asthma sufferers worldwide.
Given that asthma is an occasionally fatal respiratory disease involving inflammation of the airways, while COVID-19 is known to attack the lungs and airways, the reason for that concern is clear.
In South Africa, where between six and 10% of adults suffer from asthma, according to the South African Medical Journal, special measures are taken in some cases to protect sufferers.
In Gauteng, for example, the provincial health department announced earlier this month that they would open testing to more people in high-risk groups such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease. This is true even if people have no symptoms related to coronavirus.
Fewer reasons to worry than first believed?
But now preliminary data flowing from outbreaks such as those in New York State during April seems to indicate that there may be fewer causes for concern than previously thought.
The American Academy of Asthma and Allergy Immunology notes that there is one report that shows that asthma can increase the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 in adults aged 18-49 years. The academy shows, however, that this is based on a small number of patients.
“And vice versa, data from New York, where asthma is under-represented in those who die from COVID-19,” the academy said. But it reminds: “It’s important to remember that we are dealing with a developing pandemic and new information can change the situation in the future.”
‘Relatively modest number of asthma deaths’
According to a New York time reported, only 5% of those who had died in the outbreak were known to have asthma. The newspaper said that this was a “relatively modest amount”. Similarly, a small study of 24 critically ill patients in Washington State noted that only three had asthma.
“We don’t see many patients with asthma,” Dr. Bushra Mina, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who has treated more than 800 cases of Covid-19. The more common risk factors, he told the newspaper, were “unnatural obesity, diabetes and chronic heart disease.
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