Health and Medicine

Estimating The Infection Fatality Rate Among Symptomatic COVID-19 Cases In The United States

According to this new study, while about 1 in 1000 people who get the ordinary flu actually die, with COVID-19 it’s about 1.2 per 100 of symptomatic cases. So COVID-19 is roughly 10 times more deadly than the conventional flu.

Health Affairs

Knowing the infection fatality rate (IFR) of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 infections is essential for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Using data through April 20, 2020, we fit a statistical model to COVID-19 case fatality rates over time at the US county level to estimate the COVID-19 IFR among symptomatic cases (IFR-S) as time goes to infinity. The IFR-S in the US was estimated to be 1.3% (95% central credible interval: 0.6% to 2.1%). County-specific rates varied from 0.5% to 3.6%. The overall IFR for COVID-19 should be lower when we account for cases that remain and recover without symptoms. When used with other estimating approaches, our model and our estimates can help disease and policy modelers to obtain more accurate predictions for the epidemiology of the disease and the impact of alternative policy levers to contain this pandemic. The model could also be used with future epidemics to get an early sense of the magnitude of symptomatic infection at the population-level before more direct estimates are available. Substantial variation across patient demographics likely exists and should be the focus of future studies.


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