Coronavirus US: Emergency room visits fell due to pandemic

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ER visits for heart attack, stroke and high blood sugar levels fall by nearly 20% as Americans scared of catching COVID-19 avoided hospitals, CDC reports

  • Researchers looked at US emergency room visits pre-pandemic and in the 10 weeks following the declaration on March 15
  • Visits for heart attacks fell by 23% for strokes, fell by 20%, and for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels decreased by 10%
  • The largest falls were seen in adults over age 65, which saw a 25% drop in visits for heart conditions and 21% drop for strokes 
  • For hyperglycemic events, the largest decline was seen among the 18-to-44 age group, which fell by 12% 

Emergency room visits in the US for several life-threatening conditions declined during the coronavirus pandemic, a new report finds.

Visits for heart attacks fell by nearly a quarter from pre-pandemic levels, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed on Monday.

Additionally, stroke and uncontrolled high blood sugar visits each fell by 20 percent and 10 percent, respectively.   

The team says that Americans were likely fearful of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, but that not seeking immediate care for severe health problems could result in hospitalization, or even death.

Researchers looked at US emergency room visits pre-pandemic and in the 10 weeks following the declaration on March 15. Pictured: The drop in emegency room visits for heart attacks pre- and post-pandemic

Researchers looked at US emergency room visits pre-pandemic and in the 10 weeks following the declaration on March 15. Pictured: The drop in emegency room visits for heart attacks pre- and post-pandemic

Visits for heart attacks fell by 23%, for strokes fell by 20% (pictured) and for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels decreased by 10%

Visits for heart attacks fell by 23%, for strokes fell by 20% (pictured) and for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels decreased by 10%

For hyperglycemic events, the largest decline was seen the 18-to-44 age group, which fell by 12%. Pictured: The drop in emergency room visits for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels pre- and post-pandemic

For hyperglycemic events, the largest decline was seen the 18-to-44 age group, which fell by 12%. Pictured: The drop in emergency room visits for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels pre- and post-pandemic

For the report, the team looked at data from its National Syndromic Surveillance Program about emergency department visits from the 10 weeks following the coronavirus outbreak being declared a pandemic, from March 15 to May 23.

Researchers then compared these visits with the preceding 10-week period from January 5 to March 14.  

They specifically analyzed visits for three life-threatening health conditions: myocardial infraction (heart attacks), stroke, and hyperglycemic crisis (uncontrolled high blood sugar levels).

In the 10 weeks following the declaration of the coronavirus crisis as a pandemic, visits for all three conditions declined.

Visits for heart attacks among all age groups fell by 23 percents.

Meanwhile, there were one in five fewer visits for strokes. Hyperglycemic visits also decreased by 10 percent.

The largest differences were seen in two groups, adults over age 65 for heart conditions and strokes and adults aged 18 to 44 years for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels.

Visits fell by more than 25 percent for elderly adults for heart conditions from 33,708 visits to 25,159 visits and by 21 percent for strokes from 36,266 to 28,419.

Hyperglycemic visits by nearly 12 percent from 10,011 visits to 8,7817 visits in the 18-to-44 age bracket.

The largest falls were seen in adults over age 65, which saw a 25% drop in visits for heart conditions and 21% drop for strokes (above)

The largest falls were seen in adults over age 65, which saw a 25% drop in visits for heart conditions and 21% drop for strokes (above)

The report found that visits fell likely because Americans were fearful of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Pictured:  A nurse suctions the lungs of a COVID-19 patient at St Joseph's Hospital in Yonkers, New York, April 20

The report found that visits fell likely because Americans were fearful of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Pictured:  A nurse suctions the lungs of a COVID-19 patient at St Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, New York, April 20

‘The substantial reduction in ED visits for these life-threatening conditions might be explained by many pandemic-related factors including fear of exposure to COVID-19,’ the authors wrote.

‘[This may have] unintended consequences of public health recommendations to minimize non-urgent health care, stay-at-home orders, or other reasons.’

Researchers say that anyone experiencing severe chest pain, sudden loss of motor function or an altered mental state should immediately seek medical attention.

They also suggested that doctors and other healthcare professionals should clearly communicate the important of seeking emergency care for critical health conditions.    

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