If COVID-19 Killed 1.4% of People With Symptoms in Wuhan, the Overall Fatality Rate Is Likely to Be Much Lower Than People Feared

In Uncategorized by M.D. Creekmore

John Ionannidis, an epidemiologist and biostatistician at Stanford University, notes that the CFR among passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess cruise ship—”the one situation where an entire, closed population was tested”—was 1 percent, but “but this was a largely elderly population, in which the death rate from Covid-19 is much higher.” Given the age structure of the general U.S. population, he says, “the death rate among people infected with Covid-19 would be 0.125%.” But since that estimate is based on a small sample of just 700 people, Ionannidis suggests that “the real death rate could stretch from five times lower (0.025%) to five times higher (0.625%).” Taking into account delayed deaths, he says, “reasonable estimates for the case fatality ratio in the general U.S. population vary from 0.05% to 1%.”

Read more: If COVID-19 Killed 1.4% of People With Symptoms in Wuhan, the Overall Fatality Rate Is Likely to Be Much Lower Than People Feared

Early mortality rates for coronavirus are likely misleading, experts say

It’s possible that COVID-19 isn’t as fatal as most people think. And stockpiling hand sanitizer and masks could hurt people who are truly at risk: the elderly and those with weak immune systems.

“Kids and adults have done extremely well in terms of recovery so far,” said Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It’s so critical that we do not waste resources among the young and healthy and that we really focus on the areas where this might really get out of control.”

Because only the sickest people are showing up at hospitals, this group is likely over-represented among the full population of people who have COVID-19, according to Faust. Most COVID-19 cases are mild, and many individuals will never even see a health care provider to be tested.

“If you get to people over 70, we’re going to have much higher fatality rates. And I’ve seen some estimates of even as high as 10%, which would be huge for people 70 and older,” said Schaffner. “But remember, those people accumulate a whole lot of underlying illnesses, which adds to their risk.

The recent quarantine aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan might provide a greater insight into the age-specific nature of COVID-19’s mortality rate, according to Faust.

“If you had an outbreak on a cruise ship, and there’s any sign that care was delayed or that people who really should’ve been protected weren’t, then you actually have reason to say ‘Oh, actually, whatever we found on the cruise ship, it’s actually that’s the worst case scenario because they didn’t get treatment on time.’”

Of the 705 passengers who tested positive for the virus on the Diamond Princess, six died — which is a death rate of less than 1%. All of the patients who died onboard were more than 70 years old.

Right now, death rate estimates vary per country. The best estimates for South Korea put COVID-19’s fatality rate at 0.6%, and a recent study released on the death the rate in China — but outside hard-hit Wuhan — hovered just above that, at 0.7%.

Right now, the best experts can say is that COVID-19 is probably more deadly that the seasonal flu, but much less deadly than other high profile outbreaks like Ebola, SARS, and MERS, with death rates of 50%, 10%, and 35%, respectively. 

Read more: Early mortality rates for coronavirus are likely misleading, experts say

 


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