Chronic disease patients vulnerable to COVID-19 – Cardiologist Dr. Carpen

Dr. Mahendra Carpen, Cardiologist at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), with the Editor of the Department of Public Information (DPI), Stacy Carmichael, after a recent interview

Persons with chronic underlying illnesses are susceptible to contracting the more complicated forms of COVID-19; very often this can lead to death.

This was revealed by Cardiologist, Dr. Mahendra Carpen, who explained that the Novel Coronavirus Disease is not just “the bad flu” since it affects vital organs in patients with pre-existing conditions.

On Wednesday, Dr. Carpen sat with the Department of Public Information (DPI), to discuss COVID-19 and chronic illnesses among other areas related to the pandemic.

Given that COVID-19 is a respiratory infection, it can often be underestimated as just an illness which causes shortness of breath and affects the lungs.

However, Dr. Carpen noted that: 

“We are finding out that COVID-19 patients can develop all kinds of problems chief among which the lungs, the heart and the kidneys can be affected. All the major organs can be involved, and it can also cause stroke in patients who have otherwise not had any major known risk factors for these conditions.”

It was advised that just as Non-Communicable Diseases are managed, persons testing positive for COVID-19 with underlying health conditions can continue to manage their symptoms while being treated for symptoms of COVID-19. 

Some Non-Communicable Diseases include diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung diseases, among others. In contrast, other conditions, such as auto-immune or immune-suppressive disorders can increase the chances of severe morbidity and other causes of mortality in COVID-19 patients.

“We were first made aware of this on a more international scale. We have read the literature, we have seen the research; patients who have chronic non-communicable diseases as their background illness tend to be doing worse; they have a higher death rate, a higher hospitalisation rate, more need for ventilation and longer hospital course,” the cardiologist explained.

These situations are similar for patients in Guyana. Many of the persons who have succumbed to COVID-19 would have suffered some underlying health condition that became unmanageable, resulting in loss of life.

Almost 800 positive COVID-19 cases have been identified, and whether or not those positive patients have underlying illnesses, the clarion call to reduce the chance of becoming infected with COVID-19 continues to be sounded. 

Dr. Carpen reminded those persons who tested positive to: 

“Ensure you exercise, ensure your diet is right and all the basic and simple things that we know would make a difference in your baseline condition; they also work for COVID-19. Of course, as it relates particularly to COVID-19; the measures of social distancing, sanitisation, washing your hands, keeping your mask on when in public; those are all useful things to help prevent the spread of the disease among the population.” 

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Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. We urge citizens to practice good hygiene and social or physical distancing also adhere to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, Guyana.