How Deadly Is COVID-19?

The novel coronavirus took only two months since its discovery in China in December to spread to every continent except Antarctica. The disease caused by the virus called COVID-19 now has a death rate higher than that of the flu. 

COVID-19 is deadly. But the scientific community has yet to determine the fatality rate of the coronavirus amid the increasing number of patients in many countries, including the U.S., Live Science reported Wednesday.

Latest estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that nearly 3.4 percent of COVID-19 patients worldwide have died. In China, with 80,422 confirmed cases, health authorities announced death rates increased to 2.3 percent.

Most people killed by the virus are elderly patients and those with preexisting health problems. Infected people aged 80 years and older have a high fatality rate of 14.8 percent. Patients aged between 70 and 79 years have a fatality rate of 8 percent. 

In Italy, all patients who have died because of COVID-19 were over age 60. The country currently has the highest death toll from the virus in Europe with 80 recorded deaths, according to WHO.  

However, health authorities and scientists noted that the number of reported infections and fatalities may not be accurate. It is also difficult to count deaths linked to the novel coronavirus because it could take days to weeks for severely ill patients to die of COVID-19. 

Researchers said in a recent report in Swiss Medical Weekly that authorities should count death rates by dividing the number of known infections from the previous week or two. However, another problem is that epidemiologists believe the total number of infections is underestimated in some countries.

That is because people with few or mild symptoms may never go to clinics or hospitals.

What Makes COVID-19 Deadlier? 

The effects of COVID-19 could lead to death. But in some countries coronavirus disease could be killing more people because of poor access to proper medical care. 

Reports showed that problems with the medical system in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak started, contributed to many deaths. WHO said in a report in February that case-fatality ratio in Wuhan was 5.8 percent compared to the rest of the country that only saw 0.7 percent.

In the U.S., testing for novel coronavirus also remains too inadequate, which makes it difficult to diagnose patients and get the exact number of cases, according to Marc Lipsitch, director of the center for communicable disease dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"All of those numbers are very much in flux, and very speculative," Lipsitch said in a recent forum. 

COVID-19 Estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that nearly 3.4 percent of patients with COVID-19 worldwide have died because of the infection. Pixabay