Coronavirus Death Rate Is Far Lower Than the 2% Figure Being Thrown Around

Many of the cases go unrecorded because they do not even make the patient particularly sick

Health officials in China, racing to try to contain a fast-growing coronavirus outbreak, are principally recording severe cases of disease, using a case definition that cannot capture patients with mild illness, according to experts familiar with the surveillance efforts.

The approach, the experts told STAT, is likely resulting in both an underestimate in the total number of cases and flawed assumptions about fatality rates calculated by those who ignore the repeated caution that it’s too soon to do that math.

The experts were quick to note that the Chinese are not willfully underreporting cases. Rather, the approach is a testament to how challenging data collection can be during the early days of an epidemic. When thousands of sick people show up at hospitals looking for care, there is no time to go searching for people who have mild symptoms and who have stayed home.

“I think right now things are so chaotic in China it may be hard to collect data on the whole spectrum of illness,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Officially, an estimated 20% of cases in China are severely ill, according to the World Health Organization. But that calculation is derived based on known cases, and would not reflect mild, undetected ones.

Without knowing for sure what percentage of cases is severe — and how easily the pathogen that causes the disease can be transmitted — it’s impossible to forecast what might happen if the virus continues to spread globally, the WHO’s emergencies chief, Mike Ryan, told reporters Wednesday.

“We don’t understand either of those parameters well enough to make accurate predictions,” he said. Still, he added a warning for people who are concluding that the virus may be less fatal than some other known pathogens: “A relatively mild virus can cause a lot of damage if a lot of people get it.”

The outbreak has infected upward of 7,700 people on the Chinese mainland, and killed 170 since the new virus [by now 259 deaths and 12,000 confirmed cases], known provisionally as 2019-nCoV, was reported to the WHO on Dec. 31. Nearly 20 other countries have reported diagnosing infections in travelers from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, but to date there has been little local spread of the virus in other countries.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Ryan, who were in China earlier this week to consult with the Chinese government and assess the situation, praised the response by officials there. “The challenge is great but the response has been massive,” Ryan told reporters.

The effort, which is of an unprecedented scale, involves quarantining whole cities that are home to tens of millions of people to try to stop spread of the virus. The WHO is still hopeful, Ryan said, that China will be able to stop the outbreak.

Source: STAT

  1. Michael says

    In 2019 America had the worst Measles outbreak in recent memory. It began among New York Jews many of whom travelled to Israel, got infected and brought it back to America. This group of Hasidic Jews do not believe in vaccinations putting the entire nation under threat.

    How did the Media handle it? They covered it up and there was barely an article of the outbreak even when it was raging in that city and across the nation. That is because the Jews hushed it up including their irresponsibility of not getting vaccinated. Measles is one of the most deadliest diseases to catch.

    Now the coronovirus is deadly for the main reason we do not have a vaccination or a cure. We are in a middle of an economic war with China for the benefit of Israel and also an information war. Unlike the stupid Hasidic Jew who put everyone at risk by ignoring Science the Chinese have done an amazing job of containing the virus yet no credit for doing so.

  2. Andrew Earl says

    more are dying of hunger than this virus

  3. Trap Is Not Gay says

    I want a cute Chinese girlfriend like that I take care of her corona virus

  4. Tom Jelinek says

    Good article. Early in the epidemic, the numerator (# of deaths) makes the headlines. What is not known is the denominator (total infected), and it always ends up much bigger than initial estimates, because of the many mild cases.

  5. cechas vodobenikov says

    It is reported that 90,000 die each year in the USA from the flu; it has been reported that all fatalities in China have involved those 75+ years. Perhaps the hysteria will subside when more is known

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