A recent WHO analysis evaluated data from 13 countries on underlying conditions or comorbidities in Africans who tested positive for Covid-19. Picture: CoCT
A recent WHO analysis evaluated data from 13 countries on underlying conditions or comorbidities in Africans who tested positive for Covid-19. Picture: CoCT

Diabetes patients at greater risk of dying of Covid, says WHO

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Nov 15, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Africa’s death rates from Covid-19 infections were significantly higher in patients with diabetes, according to a preliminary analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ahead of World Diabetes Day on Sunday, the WHO noted that the continent’s sharp increase in diabetes was clashing with the Covid-19 pandemic and poor access to vaccines.

“Covid-19 is delivering a clear message: fighting the diabetes epidemic in Africa is in many ways as critical as the battle against the current pandemic,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.

“The Covid-19 pandemic will eventually subside, but Africa is projected in the coming years to experience the highest increase in diabetes globally. We must act now to prevent new cases, vaccinate people who have this condition and, equally importantly, identify and support the millions of Africans unaware they are suffering from this silent killer.”

A recent WHO analysis evaluated data from 13 countries on underlying conditions or comorbidities in Africans who tested positive for Covid-19, which showed a 10.2% case fatality rate in patients with diabetes, compared with 2.5% for Covid-19 patients overall.

The case fatality rate for people with diabetes was also twice as high as the fatality rate among patients suffering any comorbidity.

Dr Benido Impouma, director, communicable and non-communicable diseases cluster at WHO Regional Office for Africa, said: “Health officials in Africa should take advantage of the growing availability of low-cost rapid diagnostic tests to routinely test patients in diabetes centres to ensure early detection and proper care. These centres also can be key venues for vaccination.”

An estimated 24 million people are living with diabetes in Africa in 2021 according to the International Diabetes Federation and the continent is expected to experience the highest increase in diabetes globally, with the number of Africans suffering from the disease predicted to rise to 55 million by 2045, an increase of 134% compared with 2021.

Africa is the region with the highest number of people who do not know their diagnosis – an estimated 70% of people with diabetes do not know they have the disease.

“All Africans at risk of diabetes must have access to testing,” Moeti said.

“We can also stop diabetes from claiming more lives by promoting healthy, affordable diets and regular exercise.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, access to diabetes care has been severely disrupted in the African Region. Lockdowns to limit the spread of Covid-19, for example, have impeded access to healthcare and the basic elements of proper disease management, such as routine glucose monitoring and eating a healthy diet.”

Cape Times

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