Coronavirus Deaths in Ukraine: Are People with Pre-Existing Conditions More At-Risk?
14 April, 2020
As of April 7, 87% of people who died in Ukraine after being diagnosed with coronavirus had underlying health issues like heart problems, diabetes, kidney and lung illnesses, and obesity. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

As of April 14, Ukraine has 3,372 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 98 fatalities. Over half the fatal cases had pre-existing conditions, such as heart problems, diabetes, neoplasms, kidney disease, lung disease, or obesity. 

The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has killed, as of April 14, over 119,000 people around the globe. The biggest casualties are in the United States, where over 23,600 people have died and Italy, where over 20,400 deaths were reported. According to data from the Italian National Institute of Health, the average age of a fatal coronavirus victim is 79.5 years old. News publication Bloomberg has noted that half the victims suffered from at least three prior chronic diseases before contracting the virus, and a quarter of the deaths had one or two chronic illnesses.

Ukraine has 98 fatalities as of April 14, and that number is sure to grow. On April 2, when the country knew of only 20 deaths, head sanitary doctor Viktor Lyashko stated that they were all over 50 years old, though the death of a 37-year old woman in the Ivano-Frankivsk region was already known.

What are the actual ages of coronavirus victims, and what pre-existing conditions did they have? Hromadske explains.

READ MORE: Chlorine Disinfection and Attendance Record: Ukraine Regulates Coronavirus Victims Burial

Has everyone who died been over 50?

The Ukrainian Ministry of Health registered 3,372 confirmed cases and 98 deaths as of April 14. The hardest-hit regions have been Kyiv City (551 cases), the Chernivtsi region (546 cases) and the Ivano-Frankivsk region (332 cases).

On April 2, Deputy Minister of Health and head sanitary doctor Viktor Lyashko stated during a briefing that coronavirus is primarily killing people over 50.

“At the moment (April 2 – ed.) we have 20 fatal case outcomes. Among those are 15 women and 5 men, all over 50. Nearly all the deaths – 88% – had serious heart diseases, diabetes, neoplasms, kidney diseases, and lung diseases. That’s why age and the amount of pre-existing conditions have become the fundamental predictors of lethality among COVID-19 patients,” explained Lyashko at the time.

And according to data from the Center of Public Health – most of the deaths due seem to be among over-50s, though not all, and that among over-50s, the majority of the dead did have multiple chronic diseases.

She’s Here With High Blood Pressure

On March 30, the Ivano-Frankivsk Prenatal Center saw the death of a 37-year-old new mother. Her relatives explained that she’d been in a maternity ward since March 10, but she was later transferred for further examinations to the regional center.

“She was sent there with high blood pressure, and she was immediately hospitalized in the emergency room. She was held there until March 30, and she passed away that day. The only thing she had was high blood pressure and a bit of extra weight. She was registered very late, and she hid the fact that she was pregnant from us,” recalled her sister, Oksana Staseyvych.

According to Oksana, the woman told her relatives on March 28 or 29 that her blood pressure had gone up, and she wrote to them, saying that she’d been “hooked up to some machines and was preparing for the birth.” But why was she hooked up? “Because I don’t have any blood pressure. The machines come with a mask.” Oksana said that the woman had not complained of any coughs, and that she and other relatives were not allowed to visit her – only to pass along some things.

The woman gave birth on the 29th, and managed to call her family that day.

“She even sent us some photos of her in that mask, because her blood pressure had dropped. Then I wrote to her – how are you, how’s your child? But she didn’t respond. I wrote to her at 8:50 p.m., March 29,” Oksana told hromadske. 

The next day, her family came to her, as medical staff had informed them that she was in a very poor condition.

“She was lying there, still alive, and everyone was fussing over her there. The doctors were without [protective] clothes, without anything, and no one told us that she had such a scary disease at the time. Only when we came to take the body were we told that she was tested for coronavirus, though we weren’t told when,” said Oksana.

Volodymyr Chemniy, the Director of the Ivano-Frankivsk Health Department, told hromadske that the woman was tested twice for coronavirus, when she was still alive. The first express-test showed a negative result, while the second PCR test was given to her immediately after she gave birth. But that result was only ready after the woman had passed away.

“This woman was admitted with a somatic illness. She was admitted under suspicion of preeclampsia, and she had some accompanying illnesses. The day that she was supposed to give birth, she started showing signs of viral infection. That’s why her doctor started looking into if she’d had any contact with other patients, if she’d been in contact with our people and whether she’d been abroad. She was then transferred to a specialized ward,” explained Chemniy.

READ MORE: “I Started Talking About Coronavirus in January” - Ukrainian Doctor Treating Coronavirus Patients

Chemniy adds that the identity of ‘patient zero’ doesn’t matter, nor her contacts. Medical staff have so far been unable to establish the first infected patient in the center, though they are investigating.

“Until this woman was admitted to the hospital, until the moment she presented coronavirus symptoms – that is, until March 29, and here you should subtract another two weeks for the incubation period – there wasn’t a single medical professional who would have even turned to the prenatal center with complaints, much less suspicions. Now we need to think about how to investigate all of our doctors and patients,” stated Chermniy.

All the Symptoms Were There, But She Still Tried Self-Treatment

A 33-year-old patient who had recently died in Chernivtsi was also sent to the infectious disease ward of the regional hospital with accompanying illnesses. She fell ill on March 5, and was taken into in-patient treatment on March 13. According to Maria Polishchuk, the deputy head of the Chernivtsi department of health, the woman fell ill at home.

“She was given the test on [March] 14. At that time, tests were only accessible in Kyiv, and we didn’t have our own. That’s why this took two days, and we got the samples back on the 17th. She had all the symptoms: a fever, cough, runny nose, and she’d been treating herself at home that whole time,” Polishchuk explained to hromadske.

The woman stayed in the hospital following an operation. Polishchuk noted that the woman had a hemangioma and was overweight. 

The accompanying illnesses were explained to hromadske by the head doctor of a district hospital in the Rivne region, Vasiliy Ivanyuk.

“The reasons for all three lethal cases which we’ve had were because of both late treatment and all practically had pre-existing conditions,” Ivanyuk stated.

The doctor also noted that one of the patients had symptoms of severe respiratory illness – coughing and a high fever. And when the fever stopped falling, the patient turned to the hospital for help.

“She was admitted to the therapeutic ward on March 25. She turned to her family doctor when she started feeling poorly. Until then, she was treating herself at home. Then she was sent to us, and a coronavirus test was conducted on March 26. First an express test, and then a PSR test, and we got the result the morning of March 27,” said Ivanyuk.

READ MORE: Outside of Kyiv, Is Ukraine Prepared for Coronavirus Upsurge?

For all the latest updates on the coronavirus in Ukraine, follow this link.