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2020.07.27 08:00

LRT FACTS. Why be scared of Covid-19?

Jurga Bakaitė, LRT.lt2020.07.27 08:00

Discussions of how dangerous Covid-19 actually is continue worldwide. Sceptics argue that the virus only kills the elderly and people who have pre-existing medical conditions. But is it really so?

LRT FACTS investigates claims about the deaths from the novel coronavirus.

Coronavirus alone is not lethal?

“Everyone who has so far been examined after dying from coronavirus had cancer, chronic lung diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, was obese or a smoker,” said a post by a Lithuanian Facebook user.

“No one in Hamburg has died from Covid-19,” wrote another.

“No healthy person has died from this virus!!!” said an internet user who also shared a video in Russian.

“A medical expert from a German court shares the unbelievable conclusions regarding the true death causes of the Covid-19 victims in Hamburg: ‘No one has really died from Covid-19 but the economy will die soon’,” read a headlined on the popular technology news website technologijos.lt.

All these claims relied on or referred to statements by the famous German pathologist Klaus Püschel. But what did the expert really say?

Misinterpretation

The retired German pathologist, who is known for examining the first HIV and coronavirus victims, received a lot of attention for his controversial statements in Germany.

What he in fact said was that the coronavirus caused too much panic, but his claims that it had not killed a single person were inaccurately interpreted.

The autopsies performed by Püschel on coronavirus victims in Hamburg showed that they all had pre-existing conditions, most often heart or lung diseases.

The German media quoted such statements by Püschel as “I think that Covid-19 will not be reflected in the annual statistics” and “Covid-19 is essentially not harmful to children and normal, healthy population”.

But it does not imply that the coronavirus is not lethal. The representatives of Hamburg’s Clinical Hospital also stressed that the professor never said nor confirmed that “coronavirus has not killed a single person”.

20-year-olds are also at risk

According to Vytautas Kasiulevičius, professor of medicine at Vilnius University, Covid-19 death rate shows the true danger of the virus. In fact, the coronavirus death rate is higher than that of the flu.

“We also see younger people without chronic illnesses die […]. When it comes to healthy people, everyone’s immune system reacts differently. There are deaths in the younger groups and the numbers increase in every age group over 20,” said Kasiulevičius.

Health consequences caused by the coronavirus are dire when the so-called cytokine storm – a strong immune response to infection – occurs, he added.

“In sick children, a strong inflammatory response can occur and provoke other conditions, such as Kawasaki syndrome,” explained Kasiulevičius referring to a recent discovery.

“Some children also get sick. It does not mean they'll die, but it’s a serious illness that requires medical attention, treatment, and could cause side effects,” he said.

Meanwhile there is a protocol for when Covid-19 is ruled to be the cause of death.

“If the patient comes with intensifying symptoms of Covid-19 and respiratory failure and he or she dies, Covid-19 infection is treated as the cause of death,” Gitana Letukienė, the head public relations specialist at Santara Clinics in Vilnius, previously told LRT.lt.

Manipulation. Claims that Covid-19 is not dangerous because it kills only people with pre-existing conditions are spreading in social media. This was supposedly confirmed by a German pathologist. But his statements have been distorted. He never said that “the coronavirus has never killed a single person” but that all those who died had other conditions, too. Lithuanian professor Vytautas Kasiulevičius says that mortality rates are a good indication of how dangerous the novel coronavirus is – proportionally, it kills more people than the flu.