Less risk for asthma sufferers than first thought?

Ever since COVID-19 began its spread insidious spread, health authorities have been concerned for the safety of the estimated 300-million asthma sufferers around the world.


Given that asthma is a sometimes-deadly respiratory disease involving inflammation of the airways, while COVID-19 is known to attack lungs and airways, the reason for the concern is obvious.


In South Africa, where between six and 10% of adults have asthma according to the South African Medical Journal, special measures are being taken in some instances to protect sufferers.


In Gauteng, for example, the provincial health department announced earlier this month that it will open up testing to more people in high-risk groups such as such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease. This applies even if the people do not show coronavirus-related symptoms.

Less cause to worry than first believed?


But now early data flowing from outbreaks such as that in New York State during April seems to indicate that there may be less cause for concern than initially thought.


The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology notes that there has been one report suggesting that asthma may increase the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 in 18-49 year old adults. The academy points out, however, that this is based on a small number of patients.


"And in the opposite direction are data from New York ,where asthma was under-represented in those who died from COVID-19," the academy says. But it cautions: "It is important to remember we are dealing with an evolving pandemic and new information could change the situation in the future."

'Relatively modest' number of asthma deaths


According to a New York Times report, only 5% of those who have died in the outbreak are known asthma sufferers. The newspaper says that this is is a "relatively modest amount". Similarly a small study of 24 critically ill patients in Washington State noted that only three had asthma.


"We're not seeing a lot of patients with asthma," said Dr. Bushra Mina, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, which has treated more than 800 Covid-19 cases. The more common risk factors, he told the newspaper, are "morbid obesity, diabetes and chronic heart disease.