Obesity considered as major Covid-19 risk factor

Being overweight is a major risk for people infected with the new coronavirus, according to France’s chief epidemiologist. Prof Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the epidemic, said as many as 17 million French citizens were seriously at risk from the coronavirus because of age, pre-existing illness or obesity.

“This virus is terrible, it can hit young people, in particular obese young people. Those who are overweight really need to be careful,” Delfraissy told franceinfo radio. “That is why we’re worried about our friends in America, where the problem of obesity is well known and where they will probably have the most problems because of obesity.” In his words 88% of those infected with the coronavirus suffered only severe flu-like symptoms. The mortality rate for young people entering hospital with severe COVID-19 respiratory disease was about 2%, he said, but that rose to 14% for people who are more fragile.

Despite the rapid spread of the virus in France, the country is still far from getting to the point where 50% to 60% of the population has been infected and recovered and at which point a certain level of “herd immunity” is reached, Delfraissy said. “Initial data show that the number of people who may have developed immunity is lower than we imagined, about 10-15%,” said the veteran infectious diseases specialist adding that it was too soon to end France’s lockdown, which started on 17 March and is set to last until 15 April but will be definitely extended.

The council’s recommendation was for strict confinement to continue several weeks from now and that before the lockdown could be unwound, pressure on intensive care units (ICU) needed to ease and the spread of the virus slow. A third condition for ending the lockdown was having sufficient stocks of equipment, Delfraissy said, notably masks, testing kits and tools for tracing infected patients.

In an interview with the Catholic daily La Croix in late March Prof Delfraissy acknowledged that "isolation is not the right strategy, but it is the least bad of the solutions that were possible in France.” He also pointed out that the Chinese central government has never imposed home isolation in infected areas, except in Hubei province. The measure there was not intended to fight the disease, but to politically retake control of an area where the local government had disregarded the epidemic.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

Similar articles