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Is India witnessing a parallel crisis with CVD epidemic?

Covid-19 cases

With India witnessing the world’s fastest growth in Covid-19 outbreak in terms of pure numbers, the situation is truly gruesome considering the growth rate and cases in a single day. As the numbers are surging, India has now the world’s fastest growing Covid-19 cases globally, with more than 70,000 cases reported per day.

As per the Union Health Ministry figures, the country has 82% recovery rate (as on September 25) with more than 47 lakh people recovered since March 2020. In fact, the number of recovered cases has surpassed the active cases. While many may assume that the situation is improving looking at the recovery rate of the country, there is a strong reason to be concerned as well.

The good news is that many patients have recuperated from the disease, but what is the bad news? The concern is heart related ailments among those who have recovered. The challenge is addressing the health issues post Covid-19 recovery. According to JAMA Cardiology and other recent studies in US, a large number of patients have presented signs of heart palpitations and cardiac injury, months after being recovered from Covid-19. This again leads to another debate of whether India’s healthcare system is capable to tackle multiple epidemic at a same time. However, the immediate question is not even that.

Considering the present scenario, India’s healthcare system is about to witness another possible parallel crisis of Covid-19 related complications post recovery.The situation can be more or less compared to a double edged sword – as India will be tackling both – novel Coronavirus pandemic and the epidemic of cardiovascular diseases. It is imperative to note that India is already witnessing a burden of cardiovascular diseases since the past few years. One in four deaths in India are due to cardiovascular diseases and are the leading cause of death in the country, suggests Lancet Global Health report. Taking into account the huge burden of CVD, the National Health Policy on 2019 focused on reducing the premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases by 25% by 2025.

Also read: Amid COVID-19 pandemic, your heart seeks extra care

Not to forget the fact that lot of cardiac patients could not get access to follow ups with their cardiologists due to the nation-wise lockdown as many patients preferred staying home than visiting hospital and getting infected. If looked globally, India is probably the only few countries in the world which is dealing with the burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Globally too, lot of nations are realizing the importance of post Covid treatment and care and are evaluating the possibilities of solutions to minimalize the post disease effects overall. In India, lot of civic run and corporate hospitals have set up ‘Post Covid clinics’ – a separate medical facility for patients who have recovered from Covid-19 but still continue to suffer from the after-effects of the disease. However, would those be enough if we are catering to a massive number of cardiac patients with mild to severe heart related complications?

So, what can be the possible solutions for India?

Few things that can help prevent the possible crisis of cardiovascular disease surge.

Firstly, it is important to analyze and derive data on the type of complications seen among the patients and the severity of Covid-19. Several studies suggest majority of the people recover from Covid-19 and return to normalcy and few people presenting symptoms months after Covid-19 recovery. On the other hand, few studies found asymptomatic patients showing side effects, months after recovery. The only solution is develop bank of case studies to derive a strong conclusion by gauging the long term effects of the disease. Conclusions basis few months’ data will not suffice and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Data from a few months of Covid-19 will not and cannot present a true picture of what could be the long-term effects overall.

Secondly, constant follow-up with recovered patients and close monitoring of their health condition can save the adverse health effects overall.

With Covid-19 pandemic affecting and reflecting Indian healthcare system’s strength, it is imperative to create a robust mechanism and incorporate newer emerging solutions to address the critical illnesses as well.

(Disclaimer: The author Dr HK Chopra is Delhi-based Cardiologist. Views expressed are a personal Opinion.)

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