Coronavirus death rate: New study suggests shock error in Wuhan Chinese death rate
The research, entitled Estimating clinical severity of COVID-19 from the transmission dynamics in Wuhan, China, and published today in the scientific journal Nature Medicine, makes welcome reading as the disease spreads across the globe. A team of scientists led by Joseph Wu, of the University of Hong Kong, looked at data up to and including February 29.
In totally, there were 79,394 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in mainland China, with and 2,838 deaths.
Of these, 48,557 cases – and 2,169 deaths – occurred in the original epicentre, Wuhan.
Their report explains: “A key public health priority during the emergence of a novel pathogen is estimating clinical severity, which requires properly adjusting for the case ascertainment rate and the delay between symptoms onset and death.
The figure was considerably lower than initial estimates had suggested, the report says.
However, as anticipated, the risk of death increases with age.
Mr Wu’s report added: “Compared to those aged 30–59 years, those aged below 30 and above 59 years were 0.6 (0.3–1.1) and 5.1 (4.2–6.1) times more likely to die after developing symptoms.
“The risk of symptomatic infection increased with age (for example, at roughly four percent per year among adults aged 30–60 years).”
Nevertheless, the report warns: “The majority of the population will be infected eventually unless drastic public health interventions are applied over prolonged periods and/or vaccines become available sufficiently quickly.
“Even under more realistic assumptions about mixing informed by observed clustering of infections within households and the increasingly apparent role of superspreading events (for example, the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Chinese prisons and the church in Daegu, South Korea), at least one-quarter to one half of the population will very likely become infected, absent drastic control measures or a vaccine.
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“Therefore, the number of severe outcomes or deaths in the population is most strongly dependent on how ill an infected person is likely to become, and this question should be the focus of attention.”
The report also emphasises the importance of ascertaining just how many infections have been asymptomatic so-far, hence revealing how big the so-called “tip of the iceberg” is, which remains the great unknown of the pandemic.
It adds: “Estimates of both the observed and unobserved infections are essential for informing the development and evaluation of public health strategies, which need to be traded off against economic, social and personal freedom costs.
“For example, drastic social distancing and mobility restrictions, such as school closures and travel advisories/bans, should only be considered if an accurate estimation of case fatality risk warrants these interventions, which seriously disrupt social and economic stability.”
Mr Wu Joseph Wu leads the infectious disease modeling research in the HKU School of Public Health.
His primary research has traditionally been centred on influenza epidemiology and control, particularly focusing on pandemic preparedness and response.
Express.co.uk has contacted Mr Wu to ask for more details about the report’s findings.
In a separate development, scientists at Oxford University have developed a new coronavirus test which can give results in just half an hour – dramatically speeding up the rate at which possible sufferers of COVID-19 are diagnosed.
A team led by Professors Zhanfeng Cui and Wei Huang have been working to improve test capabilities as the virus spreads across the world, with more than 190,000 cases as of yesterday.
Their new test is much faster, and does not require complicated instrumentation.
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