The number of Nicaraguans who died of heart attacks, diabetes and pneumonia began to rise in 2020 as a result of the pandemic that hit the country, according to health ministry data.
For example, 3,168 people died of heart attacks in 2018 and 3,097 in 2019. However, some 5,164 people died from the cause in 2020, almost double the number of the previous year, and the figure for 2021 was 6,481, double the number in 2019.
From January to June 2022, at least 2,550 people died due to this reason.
The same happened with diabetes, which almost doubled from 3.5% (2,253 deaths) per 10,000 inhabitants in 2019 to 6.3% (4,132 deaths) in 2020.
In terms of pneumonia, it was the ninth cause of death for Nicaraguans in 2018, rising to number four in 2020.
In 2019, 539 people died of pneumonia and in 2020 the number has increased to 2,844.
Epidemiologist Leonel Arguello, founder of the Ministry of Health in Nicaragua and who has studied disease behavior and causes of death in the country for years, said it is difficult to establish a link between the increase and the epidemic, because in Nicaragua “the data during the epidemic There are “prejudices” regarding the diagnosis of “product of concealment”.
The lack of data also prevents establishing an epidemiological characterization, he explained. “Who has a heart attack, at what time, in what place or circumstances, what he or she did just before the heart attack are important data for epidemiological characterization,” Arguello said.
Donald Moncada, a specialist who is part of the Nicaraguan Medical Unit, tells VOA that the phenomenon seen in Nicaragua’s mortality statistics has been studied by expert epidemiologists.
Moncada mentions that there is a study used by the World Health Organization (WHO) called the “Excess Mortality Study” and is used to effectively determine the number of COVID or COVID-related deaths in countries. Has been done, which has statistical information. Not very reliable.
In his opinion, in countries like Nicaragua where this phenomenon of high mortality is observed in some diseases: pneumonia, hypertension, diabetes, acute myocardial infarction, these are the four major ones, they are the ones that have increased more than usual and are the last without epidemics. Analyzed the years and then analyzed the death rate during the pandemic, 2020 to 2022 and compared the number of deaths there.
“In the case of Nicaragua, it seems that the government wanted to hide the mortality data, so instead of saying that the person died of COVID, they said that he died of non-specific pneumonia, or that he died of a heart attack. died of a stroke, or that he died of high blood pressure or diabetes.”
And the current deaths, according to a Nicaraguan expert, are “another phenomenon” linked to COVID known as post-COVID syndrome, or COVID that is prevalent; Even if you no longer have all the symptoms of Covid, some people who had Covid infection may still have them.
Argüello, for his part, indicates that COVID-19 can damage the heart and that the increase in cases of heart attacks in Nicaragua may be the result of the pandemic, but the information about the deceased is unknown, which makes it difficult to establish a connection. required, such as demographics or patient history.
For Argüello, delving into these factors is key to knowing whether COVID-19 may be the cause of the increase in deaths.
“If you ask the population on the streets, they don’t know what Nicaraguans are dying of. They can tell you about cancer, about this, about that, but they don’t know what the first cause is. From this you get to know that there is no health education and people who could have been predicted are dying. This is one of the elements that must be taken into account”, Arguello explained.
Lack of education and information, referred to experts
On a general level, 24,296 people died in Nicaragua in 2018, representing a death rate of 37.6 per 10,000 inhabitants, and 33,650 died in 2020, representing a death rate of 51 per 10,000 inhabitants.
According to Dr. Arguello, the onus to reduce these death tolls lies with the government, primarily the health and education authorities.
“It is much more expensive for the government to take care of a patient with cancer than to promote prevention. We are a country that should be doing a lot of prevention. For example, people should be educated to know that their What coincides with what has not been done because things have become politicised.
“You have to invest in health,” Arguello concluded.
The Nicaraguan government has recorded 15,569 Covid19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic as of January 2022, a figure that independent experts and organizations have called a suspiciously low figure.
The map of chronic diseases and deaths in Nicaragua has not been updated since June 2022.