Saturday,September 26,2020 12:33 PM

COVID-19: Why some are more vulnerable 

By Hope Mafaranga

Added 7th April 2020 06:16 PM

“There is no treatment for viruses, the best way is to treat the symptoms, but when someone’s immunity is already compromised, it becomes hard to survive other infections,” he said.

COVID-19: Why some are more vulnerable 

“There is no treatment for viruses, the best way is to treat the symptoms, but when someone’s immunity is already compromised, it becomes hard to survive other infections,” he said.


KAMPALA - Coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought the world to its knees and Uganda has not been spared.

Some people are at a higher risk of being affected because of limited information regarding the disease.

By the end of Monday, Uganda had confirmed 52 people who tested positive for COVID-19.

Sunday Vision sought out some experts to put into perceptive why some people are at a higher risk than others.

In March, Uganda had confirmed 33 people who tested positive for COVID-19.

In his address to the nation on Monday, President Yoweri Museveni highlighted the most vulnerable groups as those that have been on drugs for a long time for chronic diseases, including HIV/AIDS patients, lung-related diseases, cancer patients, diabetics, the elderly and pregnant women.

Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, a physician and epidemiologist, said people living with HIV that is not controlled have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 because their bodies cannot fight the virus.

He, however, was quick to add that those whose HIV viral load is undetectable are in a better position compared to those whose immunity is low.

An undetectable HIV viral load means that a person has so little of the HIV virus in their blood that a test cannot identify it.

"There is no treatment for viruses, the best way is to treat the symptoms, but when someone's immunity is already compromised, it becomes hard to survive other infections," he said.

He added that available information and clinical expertise on older adults and those who might be at higher risk for COVID-19 is still limited as the virus is a new strain and studies are not yet available.

Tumwesigye, who is also the Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, said his ministry is constituting a team of innovators to support the health ministry in the fight against COVID-19.

"The virus is about four months old and scientists are doing research to find a vaccine for it," he said.

Older people

Josephine Tusingwire, a co-founder of Listening Ear Counselling Services, said despite their immunity being  weak, the main factor that affects older people is fear, anxiety, and stress

"The elderly are largely traumatised, because the fear of being at a higher risk to get and die of COVID-19, increases stress. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly in a negative manner can be upsetting for them," she said.

She also said people around the elderly should show them compassion and prioritise to make them feel loved.

"Eating well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, avoiding alcohol and drugs and doing activities they enjoy will keep our older generation out of trouble," she added.

She urged those that are taking care of the elderly to be alert in order to understand their emotions and added that if someone is sad, depressed, anxious or having suicidal thoughts, the caretakers should seek medical help immediately.

Dr Asuman Lukwago, the former permanent secretary at the health ministry, said other conditions that can compromise a person's immunity include cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies and other immune weakening medications.

Dr Lukwago added that people of any age with severe obesity and certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure or liver disease, might also be at risk.

"People with such conditions should adhere to their treatment, feed well and stay away from the public as a measure to avoid a coinfection," he said. 

Mental health

Dr Etheldreda Nakimuli, a senior lecturer at the Department of Psychiatry at Makerere University, said people who have mental health conditions, as well as those who are on treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, are also prone of getting COVID-19.

"Many of the medicines our patients take have side-affects. When the production of white cells, which fights the infections in the body is low, your body will not be able to fight off virus infection," she said.

Dr Edward Turitwenka, a consultant of Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), said COVID-19 mainly affects the nose and throat.

He, however, said people with sinusitis may not be affected as much as those with underlying medical conditions.

Dr Turitweka added: "Those who are slated for operations if it's not an emergency, it would be wise to postpone them until Uganda is cleared for COVID-19."

Pregnant women

Dr Charles Olaro, the director of clinical and community services in the health ministry, said staying healthy helps the immune system fight off infection.

"People should continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat right, get at least eight hours of sleep and reduce stress as much as possible. Those with serious underlying medical conditions should continue taking their medication and follow their doctor's advice," he said.


Dr Olaa said people should stay at home, wash their hands often and avoid close contact with people.

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