For people with asthma, the outbreak of a pandemic that can lead to respiratory failure has not been a welcome event. Many health organizations have cautioned that asthmatics are most likely at higher risk for severe illness if they get the coronavirus. Thereâ€™s been aÂ run on inhalers, and coronavirus patients like the actor Idris Elba haveÂ openly worriedÂ about their asthma.
But this month, when New York State, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, began releasing data on the top 10 chronic health problems suffered by people who died from coronavirus, asthma was notably absent from the list. State officials said only about five percent of Covid-19 deaths in New York were of people who were known to also have asthma, a relatively modest amount.
The research at this early stage is minimal and not always consistent, as one would expect. A recent commentaryÂ published in LancetÂ by a group of European researchers called it â€œstrikingâ€ that asthma appeared â€œto be underrepresented in the comorbidities reported for patients with Covid-19â€ â€” comorbidity being the term for a secondary health problem. A small studyÂ of 24 critically illÂ patients in Washington State noted that three had asthma.
â€œWeâ€™re not seeing a lot of patients with asthma,â€ 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 cases. The more common risk factors, he added, are â€œmorbid obesity, diabetes and chronic heart disease.â€
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