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Survey launched to ascertain prevalent medical conditions among Pakistani COVID-19 patients


July 9, 2020

Hypertension has emerged as the most prevalent comorbidity among patients infected with coronavirus in the world as meta-analysis of seven studies with 1,576 COVID-19 patients around the globe has showed that 21.1 per cent of the COVID-19 patients were hypertensive.

Diabetes has emerged as the second most prevalent comorbidity which was found among 9.7 per cent. “Latest scientific studies have revealed that hypertensive patients not only are more likely to contract the COVID-19 infection but also mortality among them is very high as compared to people with other comorbidities. Type 2 diabetes has been found as the second most prevalent comorbidity or medical condition at the ratio of 9.7 per cent among COVID-19 patients,” said Prof Abdul Basit, an eminent diabetologist and researcher, while addressing a news conference in Karachi.

Prof Basit announced on the occasion that a national survey had been launched by three leading Pakistani organisations to ascertain the nature and dynamics of COVID-19 in Pakistan, prevalence of comorbidities among people infected with coronavirus and types of symptoms experienced by the patients to help authorities take appropriate decisions for curbing the pandemic in Pakistan.

“At the moment, COVID-19 cases are decreasing in Pakistan but at the same time, people are not getting themselves tested for the viral infection. This disease is behaving very differently around the globe and in order to understand its dynamics and nature in Pakistan, a national survey has jointly been launched by the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), National Institute of Health (NIH) and Health Research Advisory Board (HealthRab),” said Prof Basit, who is also the vice chairman of HealthRab. He was accompanied by HealthRab General Secretary Dr Zakiuddin Ahmed.

The news conference was also addressed online by PIMA President Dr Afzal Mian, NIH official Dr Mumtaz Ali Khan, Dr Naveed Butt and Dr Amtullah Zareen from PIMA’s women wing.

Prof Basit said the survey planned by them was aimed at understanding symptomatology of the disease in relation to age, gender and comorbidities, and the course of disease with its complications.

“In addition to that, we would also like to ascertain the psychological impact of the disease on various age groups and the ultimate outcomes of the disease,” he said, adding that at the moment, all the data available to Pakistani authorities and physicians was from other countries, including western countries and China, but little was known about the nature and behaviour of the novel coronavirus in Pakistan.

He maintained that the global data indicated that COVID-19 was actually a disease of vascular system and those suffering from hypertension were more likely to contract the disease compared to people with respiratory illnesses.

“People with hypertension and type 2 diabetes are more prone to contract coronavirus as compared to people with ischemic heart disease (IHD) while people with respiratory illnesses are least affected by COVID-19 globally. In order to understand the behaviour of the disease, we have launched this survey in Pakistan during which, we would be questioning people who have been tested for COVID-19 in the country,” he added.

Prof Basit explained that people with type 1 diabetes were least affected with COVID-19 in the world while mortality among these patients was also negligible. “But all this data is from other countries of the world so we have launched our own data to understand the behaviour and dynamics of the disease in Pakistan.”

Dr Khan said the number of positive cases had started dropping from the first week of July in Pakistan as people had stopped getting themselves tested for COVID-19 which was a cause of concern for the authorities.

“The change in people’s behaviour especially around Eidul Azha and in the coming months can result in a second wave of the disease in Pakistan,” he said, urging the people to remain cautious and alert as the disease was going to stay for a long period.

Dr Ahmed said that around 2,200 people who had been tested for COVID-19 would be interviewed online as per international requirements to collect the national data and added that results of the survey and its analysis would be shared with the authorities including the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to help the policymakers take decisions.

He also spoke about the use of technology, especially the role of telemedicine, to help COVID-19 patients and said that this survey would also help understand the importance of technology in healthcare so that it could further be improved to help patients in Pakistan, especially those living in far-flung areas of the country.

The PIMA president stressed the importance of research during the pandemic, saying that since its outbreak, thousands of studies had been conducted to understand and control the spread of the virus.

“There is much about this pandemic that is still unknown and a lot of research is required to fully understand the behaviour of this virus,” he said, adding that the people should take all the precautionary measures on Eidul Azha and should not repeat the mistakes committed on Eidul Fitr, during which thousands of people contracted the disease in few days. He appreciated PIMA, HealthRab, and NIH for their efforts in launching the survey.