Explainer: Why does coronovirus mortality still bother scientists


(Reuters) – Global deaths from COVID-19 have reached 1 million, but experts are still struggling to detect an important metric in the epidemic: the fatality rate – the percentage of people infected with the pathogen who die.

Here is a look at the issues that better understand COVID-19 mortality.

How is the death rate calculated?

A true mortality rate would compare deaths against the total number of infections, a divisor that remains unknown because it is difficult to quantify the full scope of asymptomatic cases. Many people who become infected simply do not experience symptoms.

Scientists have stated that the total number of infections globally numbering 33 million is exponentially higher than current cases. Many experts believe that coronovirus kills 0.5% to 1% of infected people, making it a very dangerous virus globally until the vaccine is identified.

Researchers have begun to break down that risk according to age group, as evidence suggests that younger people and children are less likely to experience serious illness.

“The death rate for people under 20 is probably one in 10,000. At age 85 it is around one in 6, ”said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.

What is a “case fatality rate”?

There is a clear decline in mortality when measured against the number of new infections confirmed by coronovirus testing. According to Reuters data, in places like the United States, only the “% fatality rate” has fallen dramatically from 6.6% in April to over 2% in August.

But experts said the decline has been driven more extensively by testing than in the early days of the epidemic, in detecting people who have mild illness or no symptoms. It is also credited with improving survival, for improving the treatment of critically ill people and protecting some of the highest-risk groups.

Dr. of Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security in Baltimore. “We know more about the possible complications and how to identify and treat them,” said Amesh Adalja. “If you are a patient getting COVID-19 in 2020, you will get it a lot more than in March.”

What does this mean for individuals and governments?

This highlights the need for constant vigilance, as some countries begin to experience a second wave of infection.

For example, researchers in France estimate that the country’s case mortality dropped to 46% by the end of July compared to the end of May, increasing testing, improving medical care, and more infections among young people. Ratio, which is less likely to experience serious illness.

“, We are now seeing a fresh increase in hospital and ICU (intensive care unit) registrations, meaning that this discrepancy is about to end,” said Mirkhe Sofoneya, a researcher at the University of Montpellier, France. “We have to understand why.”

Reporting by Dinah Beazley; Additional reporting by Matthias Blumont in Paris; Editing by Will Dunham

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