'No Evidence to Confirm Causes of Sudden Post-COVID Deaths in Youth': Health Ministry

Union health minister Mansukh Mandvaiya has said that the ICMR is conducting three studies to look into causes behind cases of cardiac arrests in those who have had COVID-19.

New Delhi: Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya has informed parliament that sudden deaths have been reported in some young people who had contracted COVID-19, but added that there is not enough evidence at present to confirm the cause of such deaths.

Mandaviya’s answer came in the form of a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha by Bharatiya Janata Party MPs Ravindra Kushwaha and Khagen Murmu, on Friday, July 21.

The MPs asked whether the number of people dying of cardiac attacks have increased across the country after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response the health minister said: “Sudden deaths have been reported in some youth after COVID-19. However, at present sufficient evidence is not available to confirm the cause of such deaths.”

The minister added that in order to ascertain the facts regarding the apprehension of rising cases of cardiac arrest after COVID-19, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is conducting three studies.

The first of the studies aims to look at the ‘factors associated with sudden deaths among adults aged 18 to 45 years’ in India. This is a multi-centric matched case control study, a type of observational exercise where groups are compared on various parameters. Mandaviya said this study is afoot at around 40 hospitals and research centres.

The second study is looking at the effect of the COVID-19 vaccine on thrombotic events among 18 to 45-year-old people in India. This too is a multi-centric, hospital based, matched case control study. The health minister said this is ongoing at around 30 COVID-19 clinical registry hospitals.

Analyses had concluded that while situations like Myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccination is rare, the risk is much smaller than the risks of cardiac injury linked to COVID-19 itself.

And a third study is titled ‘Establishing the cause in sudden unexplained death in the young,’ and is being done through virtual and physical autopsies, Mandaviya said.

He added that in order to address the health issues related to cardiovascular disease, the his ministry’s Department of Health and Family Welfare provides technical and financial support to the states and Union Territories under the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NP NCD).

“Cardiovascular Disease is an integral part of NP NCD,” he said.

In recent months, there have been reports of an unusual increase in sudden cardiac deaths in apparently healthy individuals who had a history of COVID-19. 

Rakesh Yadav, professor at All India Institute of Medical Studies (AIIMS) had said to Times of India in March that while there is no quantifiable data, anecdotal evidence suggested an increase of 10-15% in such cases.

Some studies have pointed to the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases after COVID.

A study titled ‘Long-term cardiovascular outcomes of COVID-19’ published in the journal Nature had concluded that the risk and one-year burden of cardiovascular disease in survivors of acute COVID-19 are substantial. 

However, there are no large-scale studies on increased number of cardiac deaths especially among youths in India, although a few hospitals have carried out such studies their own.

The ICMR said last month to Moneycontrol that the results of its study into heart attacks in young individuals post-COVID, and their plausible reasons will be made public soon.