In Wuhan, China, where the outbreak of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 first began, the death rate from the infection may have been lower than previously thought.
Past studies estimated that between 2% and 3.4 % of known cases died. But a new study found that the death rate in the city was around 1.4%, according to a study published today (March 19) in the journal Nature Medicine.
The new estimate is based on data available as of Feb. 29. At that point, Wuhan had logged 48,557 COVID-19 cases and 2,169 deaths. The numbers have increased since then, but yesterday China reported no new local cases of the coronavirus, suggesting that China’s epidemic is now under control.
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Using a slew of public and previously published information, a group of researchers estimated the “symptomatic case fatality risk” or the probability of dying after developing symptoms of COVID-19 in Wuhan, was 1.4%.
Similar to other studies, they also found that the risk of symptomatic infection increased with age. For adults ages 30 to 60, the risk of symptomatic infection increased by 4% per year. They also found that compared to those aged 30 to 59 years, those over age 59 were 5.1 times more likely to die after developing symptoms. People younger than age 30 had a 40% lower risk of death after developing symptoms.
The new analysis has some limitations, which included not being able to test and diagnose everyone who had COVID-19.
“Our inferences were based on a variety of sources, and have a number of caveats …but considering the totality of the findings they nevertheless indicate that COVID-19 transmission is difficult to control,” the authors wrote. “We might expect at least half of the population to be infected, even with aggressive use of community mitigation measures.”
The authors also re-iterated what’s been echoing through the community: “Perhaps the most important target of mitigation measures would be to ‘flatten out’ the epidemic curve, reducing the peak demand on healthcare services and buying time for better treatment pathways to be developed,” they wrote.
Meanwhile, cases of COVID-19 are increasing rapidly in most other parts of the globe, with Italy now reporting 41,035 cases and more deaths than China. Confirmed cases in the U.S. have been rising quickly as well, with more than 11,000 people diagnosed as of the evening of March 19.
Going forward, it will also be important to analyze the numbers from other parts of the world, which may not have had the same disease evolution and progression as Wuhan, the authors said.
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Originally published on Live Science.
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