Germany: fatal vascular accidents on the rise during restrictions

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Fatal vascular accidents, including strokes and heart attacks, increased in Germany last spring after restrictions were put in place against the novel coronavirus pandemic, a study revealed on Wednesday.

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The number of stroke or heart attack patients who died within the next 30 days rose to 740, an increase of about 15% from 2019, according to a study by the German health insurance fund AOK.

The study covers the period from March 16 to April 5, when restrictive measures such as the closure of shops, bars, restaurants or restrictions on private gatherings were put in place in Germany, but no strict confinement.

In 2019, 714 people died of stroke or heart attack over the same period, according to this study based on support from this health insurance fund.

Elderly women were particularly concerned, with 368 patients over the age of 80 who died of stroke or heart attack, against 327 in 2019.

The study notes that fewer patients were hospitalized for these reasons in the spring of 2020, with a drop of 15% of patients treated for advanced stroke and 28% for severe heart attacks.

The AOK survey thus estimates that a number of deceased patients arrived too late at the hospital or clinic to be treated effectively.

“The fear of infection (in the hospital) with COVID-19 may have deterred patients with mild symptoms,” explains Jürgen Klauber, director of the scientific institute.

This fear “must be dispelled among patients because every minute counts in the management of heart attacks and strokes”, he warns, ensuring that the emergency care systems have been kept up to date or even improvements in health facilities, which were not overwhelmed in Germany in the first wave, despite the influx of COVID patients.

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