Corona virus fatality rate: Playing with numbers

  1. Over the last 50 days (starting January 23rd), 5436 deaths around the world have been attributed to complications after being infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus. While the number of deaths yesterday was 448, the peak may not yet have been reached. Hopefully all the restrictions in place will lead to the peak being reached soon. The global number of deaths over this period has averaged about 110/day. A vast majority of the deaths are of people over 65.
  2. Around 152,000 people die every day (7.7/1000 of population). Around 65% of these die due to age related causes.
  3. Symptoms of influenza rarely lead to testing for the influenza virus. Every year an estimated 290,000 to 650,000 people die in the world due to complications from seasonal influenza (flu) viruses. This figure corresponds to 795 to 1,781 deaths per day due to the seasonal flu.

But:

  • In retrospect it seems that this coronavirus first appeared around November 2019. So some of the deaths attributed to influenza since then may have been due to Covid-19.
  • At least 145,000 people have tested positive for the virus. However people are not generally tested unless symptoms are severe. Many are infected and show no symptoms at all. Many are infected and recover without ever having been diagnosed.
  • The number of people infected is – as an estimate – around 10-20 times the number who have tested positive (1.4 – 3 million).

Even if the number of deaths due to coronavirus is certain, which it is not, the fatality rate depends entirely upon what number is used to divide by:

  • Around 0.07% of all daily deaths
  • Around 0.15 – 0.35% of those infected
  • Around 3.7% of those who have tested positive
  • Around 6 – 15% of daily influenza deaths

Numbers don’t lie but the same numbers can be used in many different ways. They can be used rationally or, more likely, to promote an alarmist agenda or a political agenda.

And they can be used maliciously.

I find the most significant statistic for my own behaviour (and since I am in the risk-age group) is that risk of death increases by a factor of about 50 if I get infected. However, even if I do get infected the chances of survival are around 10 times higher than the chance of dying. It makes sense to exert myself to avoid infection but I don’t need to kill myself to avoid being infected.


 

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