COVID-19 Research: Study Shows That SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Hundreds Of Times More Deadly For Individuals Over 60 Than Those Under 40
: A new study by researchers from Indiana University-U.S. led by Professor Dr Nir Menachemi from the university’s School of Public Health has found that the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is hundreds of times more deadly for individuals over 60 compared to those under 40.
The study findings were published in the journal: Annals Of Internal Medicine. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-5352
The study focused on addressing question such as how deadly is SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19? And what are the risks of death for individuals of different ages and demographics? These have been hard numbers to calculate during this pandemic.
In order to calculate the true death rate or more accurately called the infection–fatality ratio (IFR), one would simply divide the total number of COVID-19 deaths by the total number of infections.
However the main issues are that with so many asymptomatic cases and limited testing for much of the pandemic, finding the true number of infections has been very difficult.
An easier approach to calculate more accurate infection and death rates is to perform random testing.
The study team in partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health randomly selected and tested individuals for SARS-CoV-2.
From results based on their statistical sample, the team found that 2.8% of Indiana or approximately 188,000 individuals had been cumulatively infected by that time and determined the death rate in Indiana to be 0.58%.
Utilizing the data the team gathered from that testing program, over the past few months, they set out to determine how the infection–fatality ratio differs by age, race and other demographic factors.
The team reported that the coronavirus is hundreds of times more deadly for individuals over 60 compared to people under 40, and that in Indiana, non-white people are dying at three times the rate of white people.
However not all groups of individuals face equal risk of death from the coronavirus. Researchers and health officials have known for months that there were discrepancies, but by calculating death rates, the study findings gave the most accurate data about these differences.
Interestingly almost half of COVID-19 deaths have occurred among individuals in nursing homes because these people are generally less healthy and face a much higher risk of serious illness.
The study team wanted to determine the risk of death for individuals not in nursing homes or other live-in institutions, so the numbers below are for Indiana residents who live out in the community.
It was found that the overall infection fatality ratio among community-dwelling individuals in Indiana was 0.26%, or one death for every 385 individuals infected. Age, more than race or sex, was the biggest factor affecting the death rate.
Significantly for individuals 60 or over, one in every 58 infections resulted in death,&n
bsp;an IFR of 1.7%. For comparison, the IFR from influenza in the U.S. among individuals over 65 years is 0.8%. COVID-19 is approximately 2.5 times more deadly than the flu in this age group.
Importantly it was seen that risk drops off as age decreases. For middle-aged adults between 40 and 59 years old, the IFR was 0.12% – or one death for every 833 infections.
Significantly for infected people under 40, death was uncommon at only about one in 10,000—an IFR of 0.01%.
Although age was the strongest factor affecting the death rate, racial differences were notable too. Non-white Indiana residents across all age groups had a three-times higher risk of death if they became infected—an IFR of 0.59% – compared to white residents—0.18% IFR.
The study findings also show that death rates mirror other measures of health. In the case of COVID–19, like most diseases, the worse your health before you get infected, the worse your chances of fighting off the virus.
Certain chronic diseases including cardiovascular, kidney, and lung diseases, as well as diabetes—all increase one's risk of death from COVID-19.
The study team didn't collect extensive health data from the people they tested, but these chronic diseases are more common among the elderly and racial minorities in the U.S.
Also other factors, like food and housing insecurity and insufficient access to care, also make fighting off disease more challenging and are more common among elderly and minority populations. The higher infection–fatality ratios the team found in these groups are likely due to a combination of comorbidities and these other factors.
The study findings gave the most accurate statewide look at infection and death rates so far in the U.S. However the question is whether Indiana is a good comparison to the rest of the country.
As Indiana ranks relatively low for overall health among states in the U.S. and Indiana's median age is slightly lower than the U.S. overall and lower than many states, the study team believes that the numbers they found for community-dwelling individuals in Indiana are likely close to national averages, but the infection–fatality ratio could vary from state to state or town to town.
If one’s state's elderly population is healthier than the same group in Indiana, the IFR could be a little lower. If the state is less healthy, than the risk will be higher.
The study team suggests that the most obvious way to prevent deaths and serious illness from COVID-19 is to reduce the number of individuals who are infected. By doing simple things like wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, everyone can help protect each other and especially one’s friends, neighbors, customers and counterparts who face the most risk from the pandemic.
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