Drug overdoses aren’t the only cause of death that have spiked since the beginning of the spread of the novel coronavirus. The number of deaths in Colorado caused by heart disease, stroke, liver disease and Alzheimer’s are all up over recent years, adding to the understanding of the noncoronavirus “excess deaths” phenomenon.
As the coronavirus spread and began killing people, deaths not caused by COVID-19 also began to rise above statistically predictable ranges, a trend observed practically everywhere.
“Excess deaths” typically occur alongside a pandemic, experts have said. The reasons are both medical and social.
As of Aug. 22, Colorado had between 360 and 1,490 “excess deaths” this year that aren’t counted as COVID-19 deaths, according to data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some of the deaths that aren’t classified as being caused by the pandemic, in fact, were, experts have said. That likely happened often in the early stages of the pandemic before coronavirus testing and tracking was being done.
From January to April, the number of deaths attributed to “other and unspecified infectious and parasitic diseases,” for example, was nearly double the previous three-year average, before falling back into the range of recent years.
Other deaths are caused by an underlying disease that was likely accelerated by an undetected COVID-19 infection, such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s. A death caused by one of these already-life-threatening underlying conditions can be hastened by the coronavirus, causing someone who may have otherwise lived months or years longer to die from the underlying disease.
Deaths caused by Alzheimer’s disease spiked in April and remained higher than normal in May. At the same time, deaths caused by heart disease, stroke, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis also rose.
Also, experts say some people may have not sought medical care during an acute emergency, such as a heart attack or stroke, because they feared hospitals were too taxed by coronavirus cases or because they feared contracting the virus. For someone experiencing one of these or other acute emergencies, delaying medical attention or choosing not to seek medical attention can mean the difference between life and death.
Doctors have emphasized that if someone is experiencing a medical emergency, regardless of concerns about the coronavirus, they should seek medical attention immediately.