South Africa: Want to Be a COVID-19 Survivor? Check Your Comorbidities

Community member tested for high blood glucose, which may indicate diabetes (file photo).

I've been scouring medical journals trying to understand who gets sickest with Covid-19 and why. Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are big risks - but obesity is an under-reported problem.

Comorbidities. It's an ugly word that has become rather ominous during the Covid-19 pandemic. Most people who get really sick from the virus have "underlying conditions" - other diseases that put them at particular risk.

When our government announces the daily statistics, it also describes the dead. A typical description goes like this: "A 57-year-old male presenting with fever and shortness of breath. He had underlying hypertension."

In the past few weeks, a growing number of studies have identified a pecking order of danger for these comorbidities, drawing from hospital admissions and death statistics.

"People over the age of 60 who are living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including hypertension and obesity have a much higher risk of becoming severely ill or dying from the virus," Katie Dain, CEO of the NCD Alliance, told a media briefing last week.

"According to the latest data, hypertension and cardiovascular disease are the most prevalent pre-existing conditions, followed by diabetes."

But each country has slight variations on the top five risks. Health Minister Zweli...

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