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Coronavirus USA: Emergency room visits declined due to pandemic

ER visits for heart attacks, strokes and high blood sugar levels drop by nearly 20% because Americans fear avoiding COVID-19 hospitals, CDC reports

  • Researchers looked at pre-pandemic visits in the U.S. emergency room and in the 10 weeks following the statement on March 15
  • Heart attack visits decreased by 23% for strokes, decreased by 20%, and for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels by 10%
  • The greatest decreases were seen in adults over 65 years of age, with visits for heart disease decreasing by 25% and for strokes by 21%
  • For hyperglycemic events, the largest decrease was seen in the 18 to 44 age group, which decreased by 12%

Emergency care in the U.S. for several life-threatening conditions declined during the coronavirus pandemic, a new report shows.

The number of heart attack visits fell by nearly a quarter from pre-pandemic levels, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed Monday.

In addition, strokes and uncontrolled visits with high blood sugars each fell by 20 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

The team says Americans were likely afraid of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, but not seeking immediate care for serious health problems could lead to hospitalization or even death.

Investigators looked at pre-pandemic visits in the U.S. emergency room and in the 10 weeks following the statement on March 15.  Pictured: the decline in visits to the emergency room for heart attacks before and after the pandemic

Investigators looked at pre-pandemic visits in the U.S. emergency room and in the 10 weeks following the statement on March 15. Pictured: the decline in visits to the emergency room for heart attacks before and after the pandemic

Visits for heart attacks decreased by 23%, for strokes decreased by 20% (shown), and for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels by 10%

Visits for heart attacks decreased by 23%, for strokes decreased by 20% (shown), and for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels by 10%

Visits for heart attacks decreased by 23%, for strokes decreased by 20% (shown), and for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels by 10%

For hyperglycemic events, the largest decrease was seen in the 18-44 age group, which decreased by 12%.  Pictured: The decline in emergency room visits for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels before and after pandemic

For hyperglycemic events, the largest decrease was seen in the 18-44 age group, which decreased by 12%.  Pictured: The decline in emergency room visits for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels before and after pandemic

For hyperglycemic events, the largest decrease was seen in the 18-44 age group, which decreased by 12%. Pictured: The decline in emergency room visits for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels before and after pandemic

For the report, the team reviewed data from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program on emergency department visits 10 weeks after the coronavirus outbreak, from March 15 to May 23.

Researchers then compared these visits to the prior 10-week period from January 5 to March 14.

They specifically analyzed visits for three life-threatening health problems: myocardial infarction (heart attacks), stroke, and hyperglycemic crisis (uncontrolled high blood sugar levels).

In the ten weeks after the explanation of the coronavirus crisis as a pandemic, visits for all three disorders decreased.

The number of heart attack visits among all age groups decreased by 23 percent.

Meanwhile, one in five visits had fewer strokes. Hyperglycemic visits also fell 10 percent.

The main differences were seen in two groups, adults over age 65 for heart disease and stroke and adults 18 to 44 years old for uncontrolled high blood sugar levels.

The number of visits for older adults for heart disease decreased by more than 25 percent from 33,708 visits to 25,159 visits and by 21 percent for strokes from 36,266 to 28,419.

Hyperglycemic visits by nearly 12 percent from 10,011 visits to 8.7817 visits in the 18 to 44 age group.

The greatest decreases were seen in adults over 65 years of age, with visits for heart disease decreasing by 25% and for strokes by 21% (above)

The greatest decreases were seen in adults over 65 years of age, with visits for heart disease decreasing by 25% and for strokes by 21% (above)

The greatest decreases were seen in adults over 65 years of age, with visits for heart disease decreasing by 25% and for strokes by 21% (above)

The report found that visits likely declined because Americans were afraid of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.  Pictured: A nurse sucks the lungs of a COVID-19 patient at St Joseph's Hospital in Yonkers, New York, April 20

The report found that visits likely declined because Americans were afraid of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.  Pictured: A nurse sucks the lungs of a COVID-19 patient at St Joseph's Hospital in Yonkers, New York, April 20

The report found that visits likely declined because Americans were afraid of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Pictured: A nurse sucks the lungs of a COVID-19 patient at St Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, New York, April 20

“The significant reduction in ED visits for these life-threatening conditions can be explained by many pandemic-related factors, including fears of exposure to COVID-19,” the authors wrote.

‘[This may have] unintended consequences of public health recommendations to minimize non-emergency health care, those at home or other reasons. ‘

Researchers say anyone who experiences severe chest pain, sudden loss of motor function, or an altered mental state should seek medical attention immediately.

They also suggested that physicians and other health care professionals should clearly communicate the importance of seeking emergency care for critical health problems.

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