'Mag-Zoom at Zumba sa bahay': COVID-19 kills but other diseases do too, experts warn

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 01 2020 04:49 PM

'Mag-Zoom at Zumba sa bahay': COVID-19 kills but other diseases do too, experts warn 1
Brazilian national volleyball team player Isac Viana Santos exercises at his home, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Washington Alves, Reuters

MANILA—Filipinos should watch out for other potential killer diseases other than COVID-19, which has triggered an unprecedented Luzon-wide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic, medical experts warned.

Cardiovascular diseases, for instance, may develop or worsen behind closed doors where movement is limited and households stock up mostly on canned goods, doctors said.

Physical inactivity has “serious implications for people’s health,” including depression and anxiety, the World Health Organization earlier warned.

High-salt diet can also lead to high-blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and kidney problems.

“The fear of getting infected (with the new coronavirus) has become a major concern for all,” Dr. Benjamin Co, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, told ABS-CBN News.

“While we’re busy looking at COVID-19, we’re forgetting other diseases.”


In the Philippines, cardiovascular diseases and pneumonia are among the leading causes of deaths. 

In 2016, a total of 74,134 Filipinos died of heart diseases and 56,938 others because of stroke. Diabetes also killed 33,295 people that year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

This year, the Philippines, like the rest of the world, is grappling with COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus and which has infected 8,488 people here and killed at least 568 as of Thursday.

But the public should also prepare for other illnesses that may be just as dangerous as COVID-19, said Dr. Enrique Tayag, former chief epidemiologist of the Department of Health (DOH)

“It’s not only COVID-19 that can be health threats to all of us because other diseases don’t stop just because the new coronavirus is spreading,” he told ABS-CBN News.

“Other diseases have their own transmission dynamics.”


From Jan. 1 to April 11 this year, the DOH recorded 46,427 dengue cases and 3,163 measles cases, Tayag said, citing the epidemiology bureau’s data.

Typhoid fever cases were at 3,892 while a total of 25,750 influenza-like illnesses were reported during that period.

The numbers were significantly down compared to last year’s data, but shouldn’t lead to complacency while focus is now on the COVID-10 crisis, said Tayag, an infectious diseases specialist.

Tayag urged people on lockdown to minimize consumption of canned food, which are high in sodium and preservatives.

But he acknowledged that poor households do not necessarily have a better option because canned products are a staple in food relief packs.

“Preservatives are there in order to prolong the storage lives of the food products. But they can have deleterious effect on health especially among those who already have illnesses from the get go,” said Co, who heads the UST Hospital’s pediatric infectious diseases section.

A balanced diet should also be complemented by regular home exercise despite the lockdown, said Tayag.

“Yung iba, nagzu-Zoom meeting, ikaw mag-Zumba,” he said.

(If others are in Zoom meetings, you do Zumba at home.) 

Co said exercise is important to “stimulate our endorphins, which, in turn, reduce stress and anxiety” during the lockdown.