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Medscheme detects interesting trends in age-group analysis of COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations

30 June 2020 Medscheme

More than 100 days since the first coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) was detected in South Africa and more than 90 days since the nationwide lockdown began, Medscheme – South Africa's largest health risk management services provider, has conducted an age group analysis on the infection rate and hospitalisation of its members and found that no age group was immune.

“Of the 42,453 pathology tests done by the 15 schemes we administer across the provinces, 5% were positive. 61% of all tests were between the age groups of 30 to 60 years. The number of tests done in the over 60 year old population was similar to those in the under 30 year olds and for both age categories around 5% of these come out positive. This proves that no age group is immune from this virus,” said Dr Lungi Nyathi, Medscheme’s Managing Executive: Clinical Risk and Advisory. What differs is the severity of the infection the various age groups experience.

Dr Nyathi said in the first 100 days of COVID-19, has spent R55-million on pathology testing alone. The schemes had 2,155 admissions by the middle of June. Overall, those admitted stayed in hospital for an average of between eight to 12 days in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

She said about 27% admissions were in the over 60 age group, compared to 9% in the under 30s. This upheld the understanding that the younger age groups tended to be asymptomatic and suffered mild symptoms.

“In line with this, we see that those that are below 30 years of age stay in hospital for half the time as those who are over 60 years old who stay in hospital for 10 days on average. As the age increases, so does the likelihood of high care and ICU admission, as well as the number of days spent in ICU.

“When one delves into the admissions even further, an interesting trend emerges. The over 60 year olds who got discharged were not as sick as others in their age group. Even though these over 60 year-olds still stay in hospital for 10 days on average, they have a very short stay in ICU,” she said.

“However, it is those patients who die who skew the hospitalisation picture. When one looks at the hospital admissions where a patient died, it was clear that regardless of age almost every one of these hospitalisations tends to be 10 days long and all spend the majority of their admission in high care and ICU till death. Over 50% of the patients who died had more 2 co-morbidities, and the vast majority of these were hypertension, diabetes and cardiac disease.

“We have seen 173 deaths in the schemes that Medscheme administers. 50% of all deaths are over 60 years old and there has been one death recorded in all the admissions of those under 30 years old and 6 deaths between 30 and 39 years of age. We have not seen as strong a link between HIV infection and severe admissions or death, and we believe that this could be linked to our HIV disease management programmes where almost 90% of those on HIV treatment have almost undetectable viral loads, many of them for over 24 months.

“Whilst it is evident that COVID is going to be with us for a while, we will continue engaging with our various stakeholders to make sure we enhance quality of life of our members and society in general,” said Dr Nyathi.

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