Health experts: 'Covid-19 is severe against smokers'

The professor of vaccinology at Wits University, Shabir Madhi, says smokers have a two times greater chance of developing severe Covid-19 disease than the greater population. / 123RF
The professor of vaccinology at Wits University, Shabir Madhi, says smokers have a two times greater chance of developing severe Covid-19 disease than the greater population. / 123RF

Smokers face a much higher risk of developing severe complications or dying from
covid-19 infections than nonsmokers.

According to local health experts, smokers who contract Covid-19 are most likely to have more severe infections and struggle to fend off the disease which has already killed 27 South Africans.

Wits professor of vaccinology, Shabir Madhi, told Sowetan yesterday that smokers have a two times greater chance of developing severe Covid-19 disease than the greater population.

"There's a number of different reasons: one of the reasons is that smokers generally would have more chronic lung problems and they have seven times higher risk of actually dying from Covid-19," he said.

Madhi said smoking created very fertile entry points for the disease in the body.

"The other problem is that when one smokes it affects mucosa, the lining at the back of the nose in your throat going down into your airways, smoking damages the mucosa and makes it more susceptible to getting infected with the virus and it also affects your immune system, so your body can't get rid of the virus as easily."

National Institute of Communicable Diseases' Professor Adrian Puren echoed Madhi's sentiments, saying "smokers may already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase risk of serious illness".

"Conditions that increase oxygen needs or reduce the ability of the body to use it properly will put patients at higher risk of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia," Puren said.

Although the South African government was yet to fully explain its decisions to ban smoking, Puren said lessons from China where Covid-19 originated showed that smokers were more vulnerable.

"In China, men and women who smoked had poorer outcomes following infection."

Madhi said it made so much sense why the SA government had opted to ban smoking as the country battles against the spread of the coronavirus.

He advocated for the status quo to remain the same.

mahlangui@sowetan.co.za

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