As health officials the world over warn that older adults and people with underlying medical conditions face a higher risk of complications due to COVID-19, the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has claimed people with hypertension, diabetes or heart diseases are at the same risk of contracting the new coronavirus like anyone else.
For our comprehensive coverage and latest updates on COVID-19 click here.
In its updated FAQs, the council said that the majority (80 percent) of people diagnosed with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms of a respiratory infection (fever, sore throat, cough) and make a full recovery. "People with hypertension, diabetes or heart diseases are at no greater risk of getting the infection than anyone else." However, the FAQ went on to read: "Some of the people with diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases including Heart Failure (weak heart) may develop more severe symptoms and complications. Therefore extra care is advised for these patients."
According to Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center, over 1.11 lakh infected people have recovered as of March 25. On people with diabetes, the ICMR said that in general, people with uncontrolled diabetes are at increased risk of all infections. "People with diabetes are not at higher risk for acquiring the infection, but some individuals are prone to more severe disease and poorer outcomes once infected," it noted.
The agency also refuted reports that certain medications for cardiovascular diseases can put people at high COVID-19 risk. "After review of the available information, the consensus of various scientific societies and expert group of cardiologists is that currently there is no evidence that the two group of drugs- ACE inhibitors (eg. Ramipril, Enalapril and so on) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) (eg. Losartan, Telmisartan and so on) increase the susceptibility or severity of COVID-19," said the ICMR.
In a new study, researchers from Louisiana State University in the US have proposed a novel explanation which is related to the daily medications for cardiovascular diseases taken by most of the elderly. According to the study, published in the Journal of Travel Medicine, SARS-CoV virus which caused the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2003 and the new SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 pandemic, bind to "angiotensin-converting enzyme 2" (ACE2) receptors in the lower respiratory tracts of infected patients to gain entry into the lungs.
"Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are highly recommended medications for patients with cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney disease to name a few," said study researcher James Diaz from Louisiana State University. "Many of those who develop these diseases are older adults. They are prescribed these medications and take them every day," Diaz added.
According to the ICMR, these drugs are very effective for heart failure by supporting your heart function, and controlling high blood pressure. "It may be harmful to stop these medications by yourself. This can worsen your heart condition," added the Indian medical body.
According to the US CDC, based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. "People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index (BMI)=40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk," said the CDC on its website.