While we are being inundated daily about the number of people who are dying from the Coronavirus or COVID-19, a new study out of Iceland may throw new light on those statistics.
According to World Meter, as of April 2, 2020, there have been 1,003,729 reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide (this includes 210,500 people who have recovered) and 51,522 deaths which puts a death rate for the virus worldwide at about 5%. (Note these numbers are adjusted several times during the day).
However, those stats vary widely by country. For example Italy has reported 110,547 cases and 13,155 deaths which works out to a death rate of nearly 12%. Meanwhile, US and Germany are recording death rates of 2% and 1% respectively.
But, if a study out of Iceland is right, the percentage death rates for COVID-19 in many of these countries may actually be lower.
With a population of 346,000, Iceland has reported 1,319 cases of virus with four deaths, a percentage death rate of less than 0.4%, half of what Germany is reporting.
Why is this?
According to an article on news.com.au, Iceland’s National University Hospital decided to randomly test Icelanders, aside from those who needed medical attention, to determine if the virus had spread into the broader population.
According to the report, this additional testing, conducted by deCODE Genetics, was only done on people who were not quarantined and did not show symptoms.
They discovered dozens of people with the virus, and 50% of those who tested positive showed no symptoms of the disease.
Though it’s possible the symptoms may show up later, this study also revealed that many people have a natural immunity or resistance to COVID-19, but are still carriers and capable of spreading the virus.
Secondly, if this holds true with other countries, then the percentage death rate for the virus could be lower than recorded. Because in most instances, these countries are only testing people who required medical attention and the death rate percentage is based on the number of this seriously sick group who died.
These countries may have thousands of people who had COVID-19 but were never tested because they showed no symptoms, and are subsequently not included in the stats of the total number of people who had the virus.
Of course, in addition there are also people who display mild symptoms of the disease and are confusing it with allergies or a regular cold or flu and did not require medical attention and testing.
It is important to emphasize for those who are older and/or with underlying health issues, COVID-19 remains a very dangerous disease, and they need to isolate themselves. What makes it particularly deadly is that family and friends who aren’t displaying symptoms may be carrying the virus.
In an article on NPR.org, when asked why the death rate for the virus in Germany is only 1%, Christian Drosten who works with Berlin’s Charité hospital’s institute of virology said:
“I believe that we are just testing much more than in other countries, and we are detecting our outbreak early.”Christian Drosten, Berlin’s Charité hospital, NPR.org
In other words, Germany’s percentage death rate is lower because they are testing as many people as they can, aside from those who are sick. Not only does this help contain the virus, but it also reduces the death percentage rate as they discovered many additional people with the virus but with mild or no symptoms.
Researchers at Oxford University have come to a similar conclusion in Britain. The United Kingdom reports having 33,718 cases of COVID-19 and 2,921 deaths with a percentage death rate of 8.6%.
Because of the virus’ arrival in that country in early January, based on their modelling, the Oxford researchers suspect that up to half of Britain’s population (approximately 33 million people) may have already contracted the virus. But because many showed either mild or no symptoms, they were never tested.
According to the article on the Daily Wire, researchers from Oxford, Cambridge and University of Kent will soon start randomly testing people in Britain to find out how many have COVID-19 antibodies, which indicates they had the virus, but did not need medical intervention.
If they show similar results to Iceland, it would significantly reduce the death percentage rate in Britain for the virus.
Though the Iceland study suggests that COVID-19 is not as deadly for some as it’s often portrayed, it nevertheless remains a dangerous disease particularly for those who are vulnerable because of their age or underlying health conditions.