AGGRESSIVE preventative measures are needed to protect people in the Americas with non-communicable diseases from covid19, director of the Pan American Health Organisation Dr Carissa F Etienne said on Tuesday.
Etienne made the call while commenting on the response to covid19 in the Americas, noting that a quarter of the people in the region are at increased risk of poor outcomes from the disease because of underlying and pre-existing conditions.
These include diabetes and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases,
During a media briefing on Tuesday, Etienne said as cases continue to rise in the region, efforts to protect those with pre-existing conditions must intensify.
“In South America, we are particularly concerned that the number of new cases reported last week in Brazil, was the highest for a seven-day period since the outbreak began,” she said.
She added that both Peru and Chile were also reporting high incidents of the virus.
She said, with more than 2.4 million cases and over 143,000 deaths, the Americas is becoming the epicentre of the pandemic.
Etienne said the relation between the virus and non-communicable diseases makes the virus all the more deadly, and now was not the time to loosen restrictions or scale back preventative measures.
People with diabetes are twice as likely to have severe disease or die, and 28 per cent of cancer patients who contracted covid19 lost the battle with the virus.
She added that measures to treat with the virus has lessened the capacity of public health organisations to treat with people already afflicted with non-communicable diseases.
“Lower access to care from disruptions in health care services puts patients at higher risk of complications and death from diseases which we know how to treat,” she said.
Etienne worried that if measures are not put in place, the region would face a parallel epidemic of preventable deaths of people with non-communicable diseases.
“We must also ensure timely access to care for chronic diseases to prevent them from becoming life-threatening” she said. “PAHO is working with countries in the region and providing guidance to help plan and implement these measures. As cases continue to rise in our region, efforts to protect those with underlying conditions must intensify.”
Before the spread of covid19, 81 per cent of deaths in the Americas were due to non-communicable diseases. About 39 per cent of these deaths were premature, occurring in people before they turn 70.