Coronavirus deaths in India have been linked to co-morbid conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac and renal issues among those above 60 years of age.
The Ministry of Health in its press briefing on April 4 said that maximum percentage of coronavirus (COVID-19) positive cases were under 40 years of age. Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare detailed the age profiles of 2,902 confirmed cases until April 3.
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According to government figures, a majority of the 75 coronavirus deaths in India have been reported among people who are over 60 years old. The deaths were linked to co-morbid conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac and renal issues.
Age profile of patients tested so far in India
The age profile trends are in line with what has been reported across COVID-19 affected countries. India, with a younger demographic profile, has a large number of people in the age group of 20 to 39 who are more mobile, they are also a large part of the working class and hence are more likely to contract the infection. However, current data from across the world and India suggests that younger people usually do not suffer from the serious complications, unless they are immuno-compromised or have underlying medical conditions like hypertension or malnourishment. Those who smoke cigarettes also suffer serious complications.
Dr K Srinath Reddy, President, PHFI said, “This is a global trend. Reason why social distancing even at homes have been advised because these younger people, who have far greater mobility, could be potential carriers of the virus and may infect their older family members, who have less immunity." Besides, India has a younger population structure in comparison to China, Europe, Singapore or South Korea, Reddy added.
Of the 10,062 confirmed cases in South Korea, around 27 percent patients were in their 20s, followed by 24 percent between 30 and 49 years of age (source: Statista2020). United States of America, with the highest confirmed coronavirus cases is seeing a majority of people in the 20 to 40 years category contracting the virus. Countries whose demography is tilted towards the older population, like Japan and Italy, have seen a higher percentage of people above 50 years getting infected.
However, experts have said that standalone data on age profiles of confirmed cases may not depict actual trends. Dr Gagandeep Kang, Director at Translational Health Sciences Institute said, “This just represents the age profile of people who have been tested so far. And we have primarily tested travellers and their contacts, who mostly are younger people. India is still not doing widespread or randomised testing of the population.”
Reddy agreed and said, “Since these are cases, not contact based testing data and not a random sample of the population, we cannot extrapolate to the general population.”
The Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR’s) testing criteria until very recently was only restricted to overseas travellers and their contacts. It was expanded to include people suffering with Severe Acute Respiratory Illnesses (SARI) and those with influenza like symptoms. ICMR on April 3 approved rapid testing of suspects in COVID-19 hotspots.
Moreover, experts suggest that more data is needed to generate a conclusion. “If we find the age distribution of people tested is very wide and more younger people are being tested positive, then there is a trend. In absence of reference testing data, nothing can be concluded,” Kang said.
The government has not yet released the age profile of COVID-19 positive patients who are critical or on ventilator support.
First Published: IST