Covid-19 Death Toll in Italy Passes 1,000 Mark

Posted on March 12, 2020

The death toll in Italy from the Covid-19 coronavirus has passed the 1,000 mark. Italy has 15,113 confirmed cases and 1,016 deaths through yesterday.

This puts the case fatality rate (CFR) at 6.7%. There are at least three reasons Italy's CFR is higher than the WHO's estimated CFR for the virus of 3.4%. One reason is that Italy is likely not catching every single case of the virus. There are likely many asymptomatic or mild cases going unreported. These misses cases would lower the CFR.

A second - and more disturbing reason - for the high CFR in Italy is that hospitals are so overwhelmed that doctors are at times forced to make decisions on who to treat. This is likely leading to at least some deaths of patients that might have survived if they had been able to receive treatment. Italian doctors have been reporting this recently including one warning other countries about an incoming pneumonia tsunami.

A third reason the fatality rate is higher in Italy is the age of the population. An article in Scientific American says Italy has the oldest population in Europe with 23% of residents aged 65 or older. The median age in Italy is 47.3. Case data from China and other countries has shown the older people are more susceptible to the virus and are more likely to have a severe case. Other nations with large elderly populations may also become overwhelmed when outbreaks result in a massive surge on hospitals and the healthcare system.

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Image: IVDC, China CDC via GISAID