BRASILIA — There is no more deadly disease in recent Brazilian history than Covid-19. A survey by GLOBO, based on data from DataSUS, shows that the number exceeds deaths caused by heart attacks, diabetes (unspecified) and pneumonia (by unspecified micro-organisms). Together, three of the country’s deadliest diseases claimed 190,242 people over the past year. According to the press consortium, of which GLOBO is a part, 194.9 thousand Brazilians died last year as a result of Covid.
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Covid-19 is not listed among the causes of deaths in the Mortality Information System (SIM) within DataSUS. The disease, however, appears among the deaths caused by “unspecified viruses” in the tool, linked to the Ministry of Health. According to specialists, doctors were instructed to use this classification to include victims of Covid-19.
That’s how a rating that did not exceed 250 victims per year since 2016 reached 210,369 deaths in 2020. The difference between the numbers of DataSUS and the press consortium, in turn, can be attributed to other viruses. The projection, however, is that the coronavirus will assume an even greater role by the end of 2021:
– This year, it should reach practically a third of the total number of deaths. With 400,000 deaths (more in total in 2021), it will account for a third of all deaths. Covid-19 will have been responsible, at the end of this year, for almost 50% of the number of deaths – predicts the sanitarist doctor of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) Claudio Maierovitch.
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In all, there were 1,552,740 deaths throughout 2020, representing 202,939 more victims compared to 2019. Just last year, it’s as if the entire population of Goiânia had ceased to exist. Of the total, Covid-19 represented 12.5% of deaths. Then come heart attack (5.7%), diabetes (3.5%) and pneumonia (2.9%).
In this wake, nurse and epidemiologist Ethel Maciel ponders that it is more difficult to control a chronic disease, with multiple causes, than an infectious one, which can be mitigated by reducing transmission:
— Covid-19 is the deadliest infectious disease of the pandemic, it took the place that tuberculosis used to be. It’s a big impact when we consider that the infectious disease kills more than the chronic disease that kills the most – says the professor at the Federal University of Espírito Santo (Ufes), who concludes: – When you have an infectious disease that causes more deaths than the chronicles, it’s already very serious.
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The high rate is due to the lack of control of the pandemic in a scenario of lack of vaccines and adherence to non-pharmacological measures – mask, social distance and ventilation of environments – less than necessary. The other three diseases represented the biggest causes of deaths from 2016 to 2019, while the category of viral diseases accumulated 430 deaths in the period. If considered only the year before the pandemic, there are 60 fatal victims.
In the five-year historical series, deaths from heart attacks and diabetes remained relatively stable. Already deaths from pneumonia fell 35.6% in the period.
Covid stats are underreported
According to the survey, Covid-19 also killed 6.72 times more than shots by firearms and other weapons, which accumulated 28,977 deaths in 2020. There is also an aggravating factor: the folder notified the first death by coronavirus in March 12, the day after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the disease went from an epidemic to a pandemic. Meanwhile, the other causes have records in every month of the year.
Experts assess that, despite the alarming numbers, the statistics involving the pandemic are underreported, especially in Brazil, which does not have a mass testing program.
— It is already known that most people are hospitalized again within the next 60 days for various causes: cardiac, neurological and Covid itself… And a part of them dies too. So, there is a number that is not known of people who may have died from other causes, but which is related to previous illness by Covid – ponders Maierovitch.
In addition to Covid-19’s collateral damage deaths — people who have not received care for others due to hospital overload, for example — these numbers may also include sequelae of the disease:
— Part of these deaths that occurred from these other causes also resulted from the context we call syndemic (a neologism that unites synergy and pandemic). These are the other consequences that the pandemic brings us — says Professor of Public Health and coordinator of the Health Situation Room at the University of Brasília (UnB), Jonas Brant.
Sought by GLOBO, the Ministry of Health did not manifest itself until the conclusion of this report.