Tags: Coronavirus | Health Topics | virus | covid-19 | death rate

Statistics on Death Rates Can Be Deceiving

a makeshift morgue outside a hospital in new york city
A member of the U.S. Air Force exits a makeshift morgue outside Bellevue Hospital in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 27 March 2020 12:38 PM

According to statistics, the coronavirus appears to be more deadly in some countries than in others, NPR reports. For example, in Italy the death toll for those infected is about 10%, in Spain it is higher than 7%, while in Germany the figure is closer to 0.5%.

In the U.S., it's less than 1.5%, but these numbers will shift as COVID-19 spreads. And experts say these numbers can be misleading because of how we gather the data. The reason is that when a disease first hits, testing mainly involves those who are critically ill. As time goes on, testing includes people who have milder symptoms. As the pool spreads, the percentage of fatalities tends to decrease.

"Case fatality rates have been very confusing," says Dr. Steven Lawrence, an infectious disease expert and associate professor of medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "The numbers may look different even if the actual situation is the same."

What Lawrence is referring to is how people have been tested in these countries. In Italy, only the sickest of patents were tested while in Germany, testing included both the critically ill and those with mild symptoms. According to NPR, right now the U.S. is somewhere in between. Currently, more than 93,000 Americans have been infected and somewhere around 3% have become seriously ill.

Experts predict that in America, the fatality rate will end up between 0.5% and 1% once a broad range of the population has been tested. But Lawrence warns that's no reason to loosen restrictions or to become complacent.

"To put it into perspective, that's 5 to 10 times more fatal than the flu," he says.

According to Health.com, the CDC estimates that as of mid-March, 29,000 to 59,000 have died due to influenza this season. That's about 0.1% of the population.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the new coronavirus is "10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu," according to Health.com.

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According to statistics, the coronavirus appears to be more deadly in some countries than in others, NPR reports.
virus, covid-19, death rate
Friday, 27 March 2020 12:38 PM
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