The Fatality Rate Is Key To Addressing An Epidemic. But It’s Also Hard To Get An Accurate Count In Middle Of Crisis.
While WHO placed the coronavirus fatality rate at 3.4%, many experts think it's much lower, closer to 1%. The problem is that it's hard to get an accurate tally, especially with a virus like COVID-19 where many patients present with just a mild cough. In other news: a look at how the most severe cases in China were treated; the perils of touching your face; comparisons to the 1918 flu pandemic; and more.
The New York Times:
How Deadly Is Coronavirus? What We Know And What We Don’t
“I think the 3.4 percent number is really a false number,” Mr. Trump said in a Fox News interview. “Now, this is just my hunch, but based on a lot of conversations,” he added, “I’d say the number is way under 1 percent.” By definition, the case fatality rate is the number of deaths divided by the total number of confirmed cases, which appears to be what the W.H.O. did to arrive at its rate. Is 3.4 percent a misleading number? We spoke to a number of experts in epidemiology, and they all agreed that 1 percent was probably more realistic (the W.H.O. has also said the number would probably fall). But they also said evidence about the spread and severity of the disease was still too new and spotty to know for sure. (Bui, Sanger-Katz and Kliff, 3/7)
The Washington Post:
U.S. Coronavirus Fatality Rate Could Be Lower Than Global Rate So Far
The question everyone is asking: Just how deadly is the novel coronavirus? As it spreads across the planet, researchers are desperate to understand the contagiousness and lethality of covid-19, a respiratory disease that has killed more than 3,400 people. Evidence is mounting that the disease is most likely to result in serious illness or death among the elderly and people with existing health problems. It has little effect on most children, for reasons unknown. (Achenbach and Werner, 3/6)
Los Angeles Times:
Why Does The Fatality Rate For The New Coronavirus Keep Changing?
If 100 people become infected with the new coronavirus from China, how many will die? For weeks, it seemed that the answer was 2. Perhaps a little more, perhaps a little less. The calculation was made by comparing the total number of people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the number of people who died of it. As both of those numbers grew, the ratio was bound to shift. (Lin, 3/7)
The Wall Street Journal:
How Many People Will Get Sick From The Coronavirus? Epidemiologists Model Answers
The coronavirus has so far infected more than 100,000 people around the world and killed almost 3,500 as of Friday. The question that scientists are scrambling to figure out is how far and fast it will spread and how deadly it could become. Hundreds of teams of epidemiologists, mathematicians and statisticians are scouring for data, dialing into conference calls and communicating on Slack channels to share information about the disease. They are pumping reams of data into computer models to refine predictions. The answers they generate will enable governments to better formulate policies to slow it down and let hospitals prepare for who might be coming through their doors—and when. (Belkin, 3/7)
The Washington Post:
Coronavirus Continues Its Rapid Spread, Confounding Efforts By Global Leaders
Efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak showed signs of faltering during the weekend, as Washington, D.C., confirmed its first case Saturday, and Italian leaders announced a plan early Sunday to lock down an entire region including Venice and Milan after reporting 1,000 new cases in 24 hours. The virus’s exact reach remains unknown. Late Saturday, the American Conservative Union announced an individual who attended the Conservative Political Action Conference less than two weeks ago had tested positive. President Trump, Vice President Pence and a number of other top White House officials had appeared at the four-day event in Maryland. (Itkowitz, Parker and Kim, 3/7)
Early Mortality Rates For COVID-19 Are Likely Misleading, Experts Say
It's possible that COVID-19 isn’t as fatal as most people think. And stockpiling hand sanitizer and masks could hurt people who are truly at risk: the elderly and those with weak immune systems. “Kids and adults have done extremely well in terms of recovery so far,” said Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It’s so critical that we do not waste resources among the young and healthy and that we really focus on the areas where this might really get out of control.” (Amin, 3/9)
At Harvard Forum, Experts Warn Of 'Most Daunting Virus' In 50 Years
For a veteran epidemiologist, an authority on homeland security, and a global health reporter, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus is the type of emergency they had long anticipated. But now that it is here, the three experts said Friday, they still couldn’t help but feel the monumentality of what they were watching unfold. “It’s the most daunting virus that we’ve contended with in half a century or more,” Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said at a panel discussion Friday at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. (Joseph, 3/7)
The Washington Post:
ICU Patients With Coronavirus And Pneumonia Treated In Wuhan, China
The report is highly valuable, say clinicians in the United States and Europe, because it details the course of the disease in critically ill patients — that small but worrisome subset who end up in ICUs. The patients were treated at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, China, during the first month of the epidemic, from the end of December through January. The authors tracked the constellation of life-threatening symptoms, what drugs patients were given to try to combat the infection’s assault on the lungs, how supplemental oxygen was administered, and the outcomes — whether patients survived or died in the ICU. (Booth, 3/7)
How Face-Touching Can Spread Viruses — And Why You Can't Help Yourself
With the outbreak of Covid-19, health care professionals are urging people to regularly refrain from touching their face. Is that too much to ask? There’s no question it’s easier said than done. According to a 2015 study in the American Journal of Infection Control, people touch their faces more than 20 times an hour on average. About 44 percent of the time, it involves contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth. (Zia, 3/9)
Should You Wear Mask To Guard From Coronavirus? Experts Say This
Public health officials have been clear about it: There’s no need for healthy people to go around wearing face masks to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus. That hasn’t stopped a run on supplies, which has led to a shortage of face masks for medical personnel coping with the epidemic, who do need them. That news, in turn, has led many people to wonder why a mask that’s vital for protecting a nurse or a doctor wouldn’t help them too. Here’s what’s behind the confusion. (Lauerman, 3/6)
The New York Times:
In 1918, It Wasn’t The Coronavirus. It Was The Flu.
A virus makes its way around the globe causing sickness, death, and spreading panic. Avoid crowds, the public is advised. Wash your hands. Avoid spitting in public. “Are you following this coronavirus thing?” asked Robert Hicks, former director of the Mütter Museum, as he took a seat in an office tucked behind the rooms of antique display cases of anatomical specimens. “Some striking similarities to 1918.” (Eblen, 3/8)
The 1918 Flu Pandemic, A Cautionary Tale
If the outbreak of COVID-19 has a bullseye in the U.S., it's Washington State. Schools and universities closed, a gauge of alarm here. Seen in Seattle: a lot of masks. But not for the first time. Substitute Spanish flu for coronavirus, 1918 for 2020, and the headlines look familiar. Seattle seized by the Godzilla of modern pandemics. The 1918 flu killed 675,000 Americans; 50-100 million people died worldwide. "That's equivalent to 225 to 450 million people today," said John Barry, who wrote a history of the 1918 flu and is on the adjunct faculty of Tulane University. (3/8)
The 'Disease Detectives' Tracing The Spread Of The Coronavirus
The first known case of community-contracted Covid-19 in the United States was in Solano County last month. When someone does show symptoms, public health officials go through a lengthy process to figure out who they've had contact with. It's something these epidemiologists have trained for. But the sheer scale of this outbreak is what's new. Dr. Bela Matyas is one of these people tracing the path of the new coronavirus from Solano County. (Katayama, Venton, Guevarra and Montecillo, 3/9)
The Washington Post:
Coronavirus Quarantine: How To Self-Quarantine At Home During An Outbreak
You’ve stocked up on canned goods and bottled water. You made sure you have everything you’d need to spend 14 straight days in your home. You might have even picked a bingeable Netflix show. Fears of the coronavirus have confined thousands as a means of slowing the spread of the infectious virus. (Kornfield, 3/8)
What Exactly Is Self-Quarantine, Anyway?
A New Hampshire man who’d recently returned from Italy and had symptoms of the coronavirus had been told to quarantine himself, but instead attended an event on Feb. 28 at the Engine Room in White River Junction, Vt. A few days later, he tested positive for Covid-19 and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services issued an official order of isolation. (Greenberg, 3/6)