Non-communicable diseases and COVID-19

Medical doctor speaks of deadly implications

People suffering from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are at higher risk of being infected with COVID-19 and suffering severe symptoms or dying.

The Ministry of Health’s Chronic Diseases Unit (CDU), Coordinator Dr. Kavita Singh spoke to DPI recently and explained how NCDs and COVID-19 are a deadly combination.

Dr. Singh said the onset of COVID-19 in the body of a person with an underlying NCD allow for multiorgan failure, which might have already been progressing with the untreated or uncontrolled NCD alone. This is where a person’s body may give up the fight and die.

Dr. Singh said the safest way to prevent this is to practice social distancing. In cases where this is impractical, she recommends the correct use of a mask.

Meanwhile, people who know they are living with an NCD should follow their doctor’s recommendations to control and prevent flare-ups of their condition. Healthier individuals could make doctor’s visits at least once every two months and practice healthy lifestyles.

However, Dr. Singh cautioned that not having an NCD does not mean you are not at risk of being infected with COVID-19.

Non-Communicable Diseases Unit Coordinator, Ministry of Health, Dr. Kavita Singh

“You can very well have an underlying risk factor that you are not aware of, so in the case of you probably not knowing that you are at risk then you should take precautions. Anyone is at risk; living with an NCD, you’re at a higher risk.”

The CDU head supported the Ministry’s call for the public to adhere to measures in place and encouraged people to exercise and be physically active, eat healthy, not to abuse alcohol, and to quit smoking.

NCDs stand prominently among the conditions that weakens the body’s immune system and undermine its ability to fight off new infections. They are not transmitted from person to person but are developed as a result of poor lifestyle choices like physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, tobacco use and excessive use of alcohol. There are four major diseases considered to be non-communicable: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory conditions. People with any of these categories of diseases have a higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, and are more likely to die from COVID-19.

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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.