Being overweight is a major risk factor for the people who get infected with the new coronavirus or COVID-19 and the US is pretty much vulnerable due to the high obesity levels there, chief epidemiologist of France stated on Wednesday.
Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, who is the head of the scientific council that advises the government for the epidemic, stated that as many as 17 million of the 67 million citizens of France were at risk from the coronavirus due to 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."
Obesity can be fatal for people with coronavirus
Delfraissy said 88 percent of those infected with the coronavirus suffered only severe flu-like symptoms. The mortality rate for young people entering the hospital with severe COVID-19 respiratory disease was about two percent, he said, but that rose to 14 percent 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 50-60 percent 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 percent," said the veteran infectious diseases specialist who has led French research into Ebola and AIDS.
He said it was too soon to end France's lockdown, which started March 17 and is set to last until at least April 15. 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.
Third condition for ending the lockdown was having sufficient stocks of equipment
On Tuesday, the number of COVID-19 patients in ICU rose by just 59 (one percent) to 7,131 but the number of confirmed and probable cases reported nationally jumped by a record 11,059 or 11 percent to 109,069 as more and more nursing homes declared cumulative data for the first time.
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. French coronavirus testing capacity has risen from 3,000 per day in mid-March to 30,000 on a daily basis now, and will rise to 100,000-250,000 per day in about two weeks, he said. Obesity has been cited as a possible explanation for higher than average per-capita COVID-19 death rates in the US city of New Orleans and in Mexico.
(With agency inputs)