Sunday 29 November, 2020

Over 300,000 with hypertension at higher COVID-19 risk, says Minister



Thousands of Trinidadians with diabetes and hypertension are at a higher risk due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which if it spreads, ‘could be a disaster’, according to the Health Ministry.

Speaking at Thursday’s media briefing to update the public on COVID-19 measures, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said 341,000 people were diagnosed with hypertension, according to Ministry statistics – 23.6 percent of the population.

He added that 266,000 (20.5 percent) of the population suffer from diabetes, saying that the figure is probably an underestimation as many people may not be aware they have diabetes.

Dr Neal Bhagwandass, Nephrologist and Acting Head of Department, Medicine, at the San Fernando General Hospital, said it is critical that dialysis patients do not contract or spread the virus when receiving treatment.

He said there are approximately 1,400 patients receiving hemodialysis treatments through the public health care system.

"A typical dialysis would have 20-30 patients dialysing at one time. Our nephrologists have instituted policies so that patients are not allowed to congregate. Patients should be kept at least six feet apart and as soon as the dialysis procedure is finished they are to leave the environment."

He said dialysis patients are screened on entering and are asked about any flu-like systems. 

"If we have to swab, swab them because this is a very high-risk population...we do not want COVID-19 to spread among our dialysis population, that could be a disaster."

Dr Bhagwandass said those patients can experience kidney failure if they were to contract the virus.

Dr Bhagwandass said diabetic patients should not work if they are feeling unwell.

“Any stress on a diabetic patient would predispose you to your diabetes going out of control. These people should practice ‘sick day’ guidelines. If you become unwell, you develop…flu-like symptoms, your blood sugar would spike.

“The rule is not to stop your diabetic medicine…get in contact with your health professionals for further advice.”

Also concerning is the fact that young people who tested positive for the virus in other countries have been seen to develop abnormal clotting due to the virus.

“Even young people who do not manifest these (diseases), are being diagnosed with strokes, cardiovascular accidents, because of increased clotting that occurs when one develops a COVID-19 infection.”

People with the following conditions are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 complications:

- Asthmatics

- Chronic lung disease

- Diabetes

- Serious heart conditions

- Chronic kidney disease/Dialysis

- Severe obesity

- Elderly (65 years and older)

- Carehome residents

- Immunocompromised

- Liver disease

Deyalsingh said the Ministry has implemented several measures to reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases including the banning of soft drinks at public schools, which he said has reduced soft drink consumption among children by 25 percent.

He added that over the past year there was a drop in visits to the Accident and Emergency departments by 1.5 to two percent for people with hypertension and diabetes. 

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