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The Scary Days of the Coronavirus May Have Passed, But the Threat is There!

The coronavirus outbreak that has been going on for more than two years is finally showing signs of letting up. Diagnosis and treatment have improved, and they look more prepared for these circumstances. However, despite significant progress in the medical system, the threat is still there. A case in point is the latest surge in the infection rate across the US. Some states may have recorded fewer cases; many others face gradual or sudden increases. The public health leaders and authorities recommend that everyone take precautions and prevention. While many may not take it as seriously, one must not drop their guards. It is critical to remember the past.

Even if the fatality rate is lower this time and the virus is not as potent, forgetting about the havoc, it wreaked a year back and before can be a mistake. To emphasize the gravity, one can go through Alaska Department of Health and Social Services data that suggest that coronavirus was one of the third causes of death in the state in 2021. The pandemic didn’t spare anyone, as almost all the residents faced the challenges. The death analysis for 2021 shows the region reported a total of 6,194 deaths while the expected count was 4,773. So, the extra number of deaths that occurred during the time was 1,421, of which 742 were covid-led. The leading causes of death in the state included cancer and heart ailment, followed by COVID-19.

According to public health scientist Rosa Avila, the pandemic also resulted in additional deaths indirectly. Higher bed occupancy rates, strained medical supplies, people suffering from other conditions not getting medical attention and eventually succumbing to death, hesitancy to visit ER, and others have been the effect of the viral infection. The health leader suggests that there could be fewer excess deaths because the pandemic is receding. Due to this, other factors are also less likely to contribute to added casualty numbers. But it doesn’t eliminate the chances of death. The good news is almost 57% of Alaskans support official measures, according to a survey by MyBioSource. It, in a way, indicates a higher vaccine adoption rate, which is one of the essential tools in the fight against the virus.

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Local outlook

Some believe that the three main causes of death in the region are sepsis, cancer, and heart illness. The public information officer Erin Hardin threw light on this with the help of the data sourced from Bartlett Regional Hospital (BRH) staff. Although BRH doesn’t compare deaths because it operates at the state level, the hospital had witnessed a higher mortality rate between 2020 and 2021 against 2018-2019. In 2020-21, it recorded 96 deaths, of which 13 people had a viral infection, which was a contributing and not an underlying cause. Nevertheless, some places that experienced higher fatality rates included Mat-Su, Anchorage, etc.

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The health experts also talk about the vulnerability of specific populations more than others. For example, American Indians and natives were most affected in 2020, which is still relevant. There is a hope that technology and advanced practices will be able to curb the excess death count this time.

Difference between contributing and underlying causes of death

There is a subtle but essential distinction between contributing and underlying causes of death. Contributing causes are those conditions that are not directly responsible for the death but can be an influential contributor. In contrast, underlying causes are primarily responsible for the development of the fatal condition. In many cases, there will be multiple contributing causes and underlying causes of death. For example, consider a case where an individual dies of a heart attack. In this case, the underlying cause of death would be some form of cardiovascular disease that has weakened the heart muscle and made it susceptible to an attack. The contributing causes could be many things, such as a high-fat diet, high blood pressure, or smoking.

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In general, underlying causes of death are more important to focus on from a public health perspective, as they are the root causes of mortality, as hinted by World Health Organization (WHO). However, contributing causes can also be essential to address, as they can often be modifiable risk factors.

To put things into perspective, everyone knows how covid cases had burdened the healthcare system, creating burnout in nurses and other healthcare professionals. People with cancer couldn’t get their chemotherapies because beds were unavailable and emergency rooms were choking. The elective surgeries, such as gallbladder or hernia, became an emergency. Many people suffered tremendous pain and lost their lives in this battle. Hence, it is better to be careful, and it doesn’t mean abandoning the pleasures of life. The only thing is there must be a conscientious effort toward building one’s life with sufficient precaution and prevention. Seek medical help, focus on your lifestyle choices, eat healthy, and exercise. Also, keep your stress levels in check. All these are crucial for your immunity and this long battle with covid.

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