There is great excitement about the arrival of a potent vaccine that is likely to save many lives that otherwise might have been tragically claimed by the novel coronavirus. While most people across the globe await the vaccine with a bated breath and it won’t be long when the viable one would be available, the virus has exposed many weakness which if given due attention would not have made it so dangerous by already claiming around 1.5 million lives worldwide with global case fatality rate hovering around 2.3 per cent. India has registered close to 140,000 deaths out of close to 10 million cases. Over 1800 people have died in Jammu and Kashmir alone.
It is reported from large studies that people with pre-existing medical conditions or co-morbidities like chronic lung diseases, obesity, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, chronic kidney diseases, chronic liver diseases and type 2 diabetes, are over-represented among patients who develop severe Covid, a later phase of the disease which has proven to be more fatal.
Research done in different parts of the globe has revealed that severe Covid is less due to the viral load the patient is carrying. It stems more from aberrant hyperactivity of the immune system, which was no doubt triggered by the infection but creates problems more due to dysfunctional braking mechanisms.
On considering the comorbidity situation in India, the number of severe Covid patients having pre-existing metabolic co-morbidities is much higher. A finding showed that almost one-in-two severe Covid patients had diabetes. This tells that in the absence of pre-existing ailments, the Indian case fatality rate perhaps could have been even lower. Like others in this part of the globe, Jammu and Kashmir has been experiencing a steadily progressing prevalence of non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes.
More importantly in contrast to the West, where obesity is more often associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, in this part of the world non-obese individuals are also affected by this condition in large numbers. In 2018, a survey conducted by GMC Srinagar showed that one out of every ten residents of Srinagar aged over 20 years has insulin dependent diabetes.
Covid-19 is not the first infection that makes diabetics more susceptible. Diabetics are known to have a weaker immune system and, thus, higher susceptibility to infections. A greater effort should be made to screen the population for diabetes much before complications arise. While it would be a very critical tool in being prepared against any future epidemics, the people also need to be guarded and should take all measures to be guarded.