The US death toll from the novel coronavirus will likely triple before the year is finished, according to a recent study.
The University of Washington’s Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy and Economics Institute found the death rate from the virus is 13 times as high as the seasonal flu, which averages about a 0.1% fatality rate. The death rate for those infected with the coronavirus and display symptoms is 1.3%, according to the study.
The exact percentage of people who are infected with the virus and do not display symptoms is unknown, but the phenomena has been observed globally. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in April that a quarter of people who are infected are asymptomatic.
“COVID-19 infection is deadlier than flu — we can put that debate to rest,” study author Anirban Basu, a professor of health economics at the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy. said in a statement released by the university Monday.
Basu further cautioned the virus is far more infectious than seasonal influenza, and the study notes that even by low estimates 20% of the US population will become infected by year’s end, and that is if trends in social distancing trends continue.
The number of deaths predicted with that level of infection would range between 350,000 on the low end and 1.2 million at the upper level, according to Basu’s study.
“This is a staggering number, which can only be brought down with sound public health measures,” Basu said.
The US currently has more than 91,000 confirmed virus-related fatalities, the highest death toll of any nation, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Still, Basu cautioned his study should not be seen as the “last word” on the US fatality rate, but one of many tools to measure the virus’ impact.
“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.”
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