Nav: Home

COVID-19: UW study reports 'staggering' death rate in US among those infected who show symptoms

May 18, 2020

Is COVID-19 more deadly than the flu?

It's a lot more deadly, concludes a new study by the University of Washington published May 7 in the journal Health Affairs. The study's results also project a grim future if the U.S. doesn't put up a strong fight against the spread of the virus.

The national rate of death among people infected with the novel coronavirus -- SARS-CoV-2 -- that causes COVID-19 and who show symptoms is 1.3%, the study found. The comparable rate of death for the seasonal flu is 0.1%.

"COVID-19 infection is deadlier than flu -- we can put that debate to rest," said study author Anirban Basu, professor of health economics and Stergachis Family Endowed Director of the CHOICE Institute at the UW School of Pharmacy.

The School of Pharmacy and Basu have developed a website that explores the infection and fatality rates by U.S. counties for people with symptoms. For this study, 116 counties in 33 states had COVID-19 data that fit Basu's robust criteria for inclusion in the analysis. The site's projections will be updated as new data becomes available, Basu said.

UW's CHOICE Institute Interactive: Explore the county-by-county and national infection fatality rates

Basu stresses that this website is not a forecasting tool -- it does not predict what will happen in the future. Rather, it uses the estimated death rate among symptomatic COVID-19 cases to project what is happening currently in these communities, such as what are the likely numbers for total infections and symptomatic cases. The tool will also detail how the daily incidence of infections changes.

In the state of Washington, for example, the county-specific fatality estimates ranged from 0.5% to 3.6%. King County at 3.6% is the highest among all 116 U.S. counties studied. Among the state's other counties that could be included in this analysis were Chelan County at 2.3%, Island County at 2.2% and Spokane County at 2%.

The COVID-19 death rate, the study adds, means that if the same number of people in the U.S. are infected by the end of the year as were infected with the influenza virus -- roughly 35.5 million in 2018-2019 -- then nearly 500,000 people will die of COVID-19.

However, the novel coronavirus is more infectious than the influenza virus, Basu noted. So, a conservative estimate of 20% of the U.S. population becoming infected by the end of the year -- with the current trends in social distancing and health care supply continuing, while accounting for those infected who will recover asymptomatically -- could result in the number of deaths climbing to between 350,000 and 1.2 million.

"This is a staggering number, which can only be brought down with sound public health measures," Basu said.

To build county-by-county models that could more accurately show how deadly the pandemic is, Basu used publicly reported data on the total COVID-19 cases and deaths. Realizing that both of these reported quantities likely are undercounts and change over time, Basu looked at the trends in the ratio of these two numbers, or the reported "case fatality rates," to more accurately reflect how deadly the virus is among those who fall sick because of it.

"Our hope is that our study results can help inform local and national policies that will save lives in the future," said Basu. "Ultimately, we want this work to advance the health of people around the world."

Basu also noted that the model should not be viewed as the "last word" on estimating the COVID-19 fatality rate, but as one of several methods used to measure the impact of the virus.

"The infection fatality ratio estimate is itself dynamic in nature," Basu said. "The overall estimate can both increase or decrease in the future, depending on the demographics where the infections will be spreading. It is possible, as the infection spreads to more rural counties of the country, the overall infection fatality rate will increase due to the lack of access to necessary health care delivery."
-end-
This research was funded by the UW CHOICE Institute and the School of Pharmacy.

For more information, contact Basu at basua@uw.edu.

University of Washington

Related Infection Articles:

Halving the risk of infection following surgery
New analysis by the University of Leeds and the University of Bern of more than 14,000 operations has found that using alcoholic chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) halves the risk of infection in certain types of surgery when compared to the more commonly used povidone-iodine (PVI).
How plants shut the door on infection
A new study by an international team including University of Maryland scientists has discovered the key calcium channel responsible for closing plant pores as an immune response to pathogen exposure.
Sensing infection, suppressing regeneration
UIC researchers describe an enzyme that blocks the ability of blood vessel cells to self-heal.
Boost to lung immunity following infection
The strength of the immune system in response to respiratory infections is constantly changing, depending on the history of previous, unrelated infections, according to new research from the Crick.
Is infection after surgery associated with increased long-term risk of infection, death?
Whether experiencing an infection within the first 30 days after surgery is associated with an increased risk of another infection and death within one year was the focus of this observational study that included about 660,000 veterans who underwent major surgery.
Revealed: How E. coli knows how to cause the worst possible infection
The discovery could one day let doctors prevent the infection by allowing E. coli to pass harmlessly through the body.
UK study shows most patients with suspected urinary tract infection and treated with antibiotics actually lack evidence of this infection
New research presented at this week's European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam, Netherlands (April 13-16, 2019) shows that only one third of patients that enter the emergency department with suspected urinary tract infection (UTI) actually have evidence of this infection, yet almost all are treated with antibiotics, unnecessarily driving the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.
Bacteria in urine doesn't always indicate infection
Doctors should think carefully before testing patients for a urinary tract infection (UTI) to avoid over-diagnosis and unnecessary antibiotic treatment, according to updated asymptomatic bacteriuria (ASB) guidelines released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Subsidies for infection control to healthcare institutions help reduce infection levels
Researchers compared three types of infection control subsidies and found that under a limited budget, a dollar-for-dollar matching subsidy, in which policymakers match hospital spending for infection control measures, was the most effective at reducing the number of hospital-acquired infections.
Dengue virus infection may cause severe outcomes following Zika virus infection during pregnancy
This study is the first to report a possible mechanism for the enhancement of Zika virus progression during pregnancy in an animal model.
More Infection News and Infection Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.