Coronavirus mortality rates fluctuate widely depending on how you add them up. This variance naturally impacts how the story is covered and raises pressing concerns about transparency. CORONAVIRUS fatalities in the UK have risen to at least 33,800 today by one measure, for example.
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An alternative analysis published today, suggests the overall death toll from the virus is far higher – and has already passed 41,000.
The alternative toll, tallied up by the Office for National Statistics, refers to all deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on death certificates this year until the beginning of May, including suspected cases.
Despite the variance, the data provides valuable insight into the rate in which the virus is spreading and those most at risk.
Adding to the trove of data is a breakdown of deaths by pre-existing conditions published by NHS England yesterday.
The figures show that nearly one in five (18 percent) of all people who have died from the virus also had dementia.
Of the 22,332 patients who died since March 31, when pre-existing conditions began to be reported, some 5,873 (26 percent) of patients had diabetes, while 4,048 (18 percent) had dementia.
In light of this finding, Alzheimer’s Research UK says action is needed to protect people with dementia from COVID-19.
Samantha Benham-Hermetz, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This shocking news will no doubt bring even more worry and fear to people affected by dementia and their loved ones, during an already challenging time.
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She continued: “While it’s still unclear what’s behind the link between COVID-19 and dementia, we do know that people with dementia are more vulnerable to certain infections.
“Age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, and with older people also more likely to experience severe symptoms from COVID-19, this may partly explain the high number of deaths.
“It is also possible that people with dementia may be more likely to have been exposed to the virus due to high rates of infection in care homes.”
Benham-Hermetz added: “As a matter of priority, the government must protect people with dementia and more research is needed to understand why people with dementia are so badly affected by COVID-19, so that the right measures can be put in place to prevent further deaths.”
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What should I do if I spot COVID-19 symptoms in a loved one with dementia?
“If the person with dementia falls ill with possible coronavirus (COVID-19), knowing what to do in advance may give you reassurance and be able to support them better,” advises Alzheimer’s Society.
The NHS advice is:
- If the person ever has severe difficulty breathing – gasping, not getting words out, choking, or blue lips – this is an emergency so call 999 for an ambulance
- If it’s not an emergency, visit NHS 111 online – you will need to answer a set of questions and then be told what to do
No one who is unwell should go to a GP, pharmacy (chemist) or – unless they are told to – a hospital.
According to the NHS, most people with coronavirus symptoms get a high temperature and a new continuous cough.
These may last for about two weeks. The fever often gets better before the cough.
If these are the only symptoms, NHS 111 online advice for most people with dementia is rest, paracetamol and drinking plenty of liquids.
In people with dementia, coronavirus infection is more likely to cause delirium too, notes Alzheimer’s Society.
“The person will suddenly seem more confused than normal and be unusually sleepy, agitated or distracted,” explains the health body.
“They may no longer make sense or know where they are. They may also behave differently,” it adds.
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