Dr Patrick Chinedu, a Public Health specialist, has said that all the evidence from the outbreak of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), suggest that older persons are more susceptible to the virus.
Chinedu said this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria(NAN), on Friday in Abuja while reacting to the data from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC).
The CCDC report shows that most of the cases of COVID-19 are mild with the sick and elderly mostly at risk.
Chinedu, however, said that in the age range of 10 years to 19 years the mortality rate is 0.2 per cent.
He said that older persons are open to contacting SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes COVID-19, and would suffer a severe or fatal case.
“The older people are more likely to be infected with the virus; older people with underlying lung disease may develop acute respiratory distress syndrome, severe shortness of breath often caused by fluid in the lungs and requiring a ventilator.
“COVID-19 behaves a lot like seasonal flu; from 70 per cent to 85 per cent of all flu deaths and 50 per cent to 70 per cent of flu-related hospitalisations occur among people in the 65-plus age group, according to the U.S. Centre For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The 2002 – 2003 SARs outbreak similarly proved lethal for more than 50 per cent of people over 60 who contracted the disease.
“Nigerians should not see this as a surprise, the older people have higher risk of underlying health conditions, and older people are already under physical stress.
“Their immune systems, even if not significantly compromised, simply do not have the same ability to fight viruses and bacteria,” Chinedu said.
He said the aged people’s exposure to any pathogen is often higher than that of other adults and children.
Chinedu, however, called on the Federal Government to be proactive and take preventive measures in controlling the spread of the virus.
He suggested the need for an aged care facility that would have its own influenza outbreak management plans, with the COVID-19 threat now on the rise on that process.
He recalled that government generated a Healthcare Package for Improving Quality of Care of the Ageing Population in Nigeria, called HEPIQ-C Project, which was to address the health rights of the older population in the country.
“We do not know how far the HEPIQ-C project has gone. It is presumably the first such Policy in sub-Saharan Africa meant to provide a model for healthcare to geriatric populations in our region.
“To also achieve and sustain it in both rural and urban settings, the policy is integrated into the government’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) strategy,” he explained.
The expert said that Nigerians should be expecting that the HEPIQ-C project facilities were prepared along with the other relevant agencies and that those facilities should remain on high alert in case of an outbreak in older persons.
“We cannot guarantee that we are not going to have an outbreak, but as a nation we have to make sure that we have enough of medical consumables in any case of an outbreak.
“They need to have all the tools in place including personal protective equipment in the country, he said.
The expert called on Health authorities to affect the older population more while they are ramping up efforts to detect and contain COVID-19.
Chinedu said that the government should consider quarantines space for surge workforce staffing and also geriatricians.
“A Geriatrician is a medical doctor who specialises in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and disability in older adults.
“In 2018, Prof. Usman Ahmed, the President of Geriatrics Association of Nigeria (GAN) said that there were only seven geriatricians in Nigeria, which is highly inadequate to cater for the over nine million aged persons in the country.
“If there was an outbreak in many communities across the country how would the GAN share themselves without protective equipment for the older persons in the 36 states and the FCT?” he said.
He said there was need for government to quickly put in place the right mechanisms to protect those who were most vulnerable – the older persons or those with serious health problems, like tuberculosis and hepatitis C patients.
He stressed that government needed to be objective, noting that an increase in new cases did not mean an increase in serious cases.
The expert said that it was important for people to know that the way COVID-19 presented itself in a younger person was different from the way it presented itself in someone older.
“Old people may not get a fever so just checking their temperature may not reveal the infection, families and caregivers should be on alert for “atypical presentation” of COVID-19,” he said.
NAN reports that the China CDC study revealed that COVID-19 has been more fatal in men than women.
It said that the older population and those with preexisting health conditions were most at risk of contracting a fatal case of COVID-19.
The findings put the overall death rate of the Covid-19 virus at 2.3 per cent.
NAN, reports that according to the NPopC 2013, no less than 10 million older men and women live in Nigeria in 2020.
“At a projected growth rate of 3.2 per cent this number is expected to grow to 28.9 million by 2050. (NAN)