Highly varying death rates confound COVID-19 researchers

April 18, 2020 0 By S Harachand

How deadly is the novel coronavirus? What percentage of people die of COVID-19? These questions continue to baffle epidemiologists and laymen alike even after the new coronavirus infecting 22,63.052 people and killing 1,54, 827 (as at 6 pm, 18th April). 

What is most puzzling is the disparity in the ratio of the infected and dead among different population groups. The death rate is found to be more than 13% in Italy. Whereas the number is less than 0.75% in Germany, another European country.

In the US, official figures put the death rate at 3.4%. Again, the case fatality numbers vary widely among various states. At about 7%. Michigan has the highest number of recorded deaths, while the western state of Wyoming has the lowest, at about 0.7 percent.

WHO updated the worldwide case fatality rate between 3 and 4% on 3rd of March, which was 2%, earlier. Recent reports from South Korea show that 2% of people infected with the virus died.

Meanwhile, China added 1280 or 50% more to the current death toll in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, on 17 th April. Now China says a total of 3,869 people died from COVID-19 and the virus infected 50,333. The death toll jumped with the addition of unreported deaths from home during the early days of the outbreak and incorrect reporting by hospitals, according to Chinese officials.

India officially puts the percentage of death from new coronavirus at 3.3. The figure, however, varies from place to place. The number remains the highest in Mumbai where nearly 5% of the people tested positive for the virus died. At the same time, with an estimated rate of less than one percent, the death rate is far too low in the southern state of Kerala.

Researchers offer no explanation for this confounding disparity. They, however, assert that there is no evidence that suggests the SARS-CoV-2 virus has mutated to a more lethal form that infects specific populations. Even as the actual case fatality rates continue to be an enigma, epidemiologists say that it is often difficult to arrive at a definitive calculation in the midst of a pandemic.

Experts believe that it is impossible to derive a true figure when we are not sure of the actual number of infections.

Many people who had never tested positive for the virus were presumed to have died of COVID-19. And many people who tested positive for the virus never show any symptoms. One confirmed case of infection could spread the virus to at least 15 people, according to some estimates.