BENGALURU: With the Covid-19 death toll in Karnataka touching 35,434 on July 6, the state topped among the four southern states. Karnataka also stands second in the country, after Maharashtra, which saw 1,23,136 deaths. Statistics released by the State War Room show that patients aged 50-80 years accounted for almost half the total number of deaths in the state, since the pandemic set in.
While experts on Death Audit Committees attribute the reasons to limited testing, reluctance to visit hospitals due to social stigma, high cost of healthcare, late reporting and role of variants, doctors say the increase in deaths also point to many victims having diabetes and cardiac issues, and not even being diagnosed with the disorders until Covid-19 hit them.
“Many patients who came into ICUs had undiagnosed lung diseases, heart issues, diabetes and malnutrition-related conditions. I think this also contributed to, and played a vital role in claiming lives,” says Dr CN Manjunath, Director, Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases.While Maharashtra recorded the highest number of deaths, Tamil Nadu recorded 33,059 deaths, Andhra Pradesh’s toll is 12,870 and Kerala saw 13,818 deaths. Rajasthan recorded 8,941 deaths, the least among 10 states with a high death toll.
However, some doctors argue that when looking at deaths in a geographical area, one has to see the total number of cases detected. If more people are tested in a particular area, the case fatality rate -- number of deaths divided by total cases tested -- will give the actual death rate, for comparison among states. Meanwhile, patients aged 61-80 years have accounted for half the total deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic. Data released till July 6 shows 10,165 people aged 60-69 died in Karnataka, 7,774 were 50 to 59 years old, and 6,872 people aged 70-79 died due to Covid-19.
According to Dr Satyanarayana Mysore, HOD, Pulmonology, Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru, the deaths also depend on the kind of strain -- H or L type -- which plays a role in determining fatality rate. “Though there is no research on which predominant strain was present in Karnataka, we have noticed that patients with hypoxia and oxygen-related issues had H type of virus, and those with severe lung infections had the L type. The L strain of coronavirus was more prevalent in Wuhan, China. If the same L type was present in our state, it could be the reason for high number of deaths,” say doctors. The emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant in the state, and increase in Covid infections also plays a major role.
Dr Ravindra Mehta, Chief of Pulmonology, Critical Care, Apollo Hospitals, says, “The second wave hit Karnataka with great velocity, and the state did not have the facilities and infrastrcture which other states enjoyed. For instance, Mumbai did not have shortage of resources, but Karnataka saw a massive shortage of oxygen, medicine, equipment and infrastructure. The second wave was very rapid and ferocious, and the cases overwhelmed the healthcare system, and could have also contributed to an increase in deaths.”
However, experts warn that further deaths can be prevented by ensuring that people follow appropriate behaviour, to avoid further virus mutations. “Preparation for future waves by testing enough, ramping up vaccination and upgrading health infrastructure will play a major role in avoiding deaths. Also, lessons learnt during earlier waves should not be forgotten,” said Dr Mehta.