What Kenya can learn from Italy on deadly virus


New study unearths crucial information.

Friday May 29 2020

Italy has been one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus scourge.

Its grim statistics paint a gloomy picture of how hard Covid-19 has hit Italy. Italy has shocked the world due to her relatively smaller population in comparison to the US and China where the coronavirus disease emerged from.

Following these gloomy statistics, new medical research and data has revealed critical lessons that other countries like Kenya can learn from the way the coronavirus scourge impacted Italy. The research published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine says the reason Italy has recorded shocking casualty figures is not simply because the epidemic was reported earlier than in other countries.

“One of the main reasons is that Covid-19 morbidity and mortality is strongly dependent on the presence of concomitant serious diseases and Italy has a high proportion of patients with a history of smoking, and high rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and ischemic heart disease,” says the study report. The study further identifies demographics as another fuel driving the pandemic in the hardest hit parts of northern Italy. “The median age of people infected with coronavirus who are dying has been 80 years. The average age of patients who are requiring critical care support has been 67 years. This reflects Italy’s position as the country with second most elderly population in the world,” said Dr Stefania Boccia from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore who led the study.

Although these two factors were highlighted as the most prevalent, the burden of emerging cases on the healthcare system is also pointed out. “The prevalence of infection was too high in the absence of effective public health intervention,” the study report says. For example, despite reported cases of Covid-19, measures such as restricted interactions, social distancing and stay-at-home orders were not implemented in the city of Bergamo. Consequently, thousands of people attended the football match between Atalanta and Valencia, leading to a massive viral transmission.

An estimated 40,000 people were infected during this Champions League match. In the same vein, although Italy has a stable health system, the coronavirus exposed its modest number of ICU beds. “For a developed nation, Italy has an overall of 8.4 intensive care beds per 100,000 population and only 2,601 beds in coronary care units,” said Dr Stefania. “This was compounded by hospital overcrowding which resulted in mass infection of health workers.”