The fatality rate for COVID-19, the respiratory disease that results from exposure to the coronavirus, has been revised upward from between 1-2 percent to 3.4 percent, Business Insider reports. By comparison, the regular, seasonal flu has a fatality rate of about 0.1 percent.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revised the numbers upward this week, saying at a press conference that the “novel coronavirus,” as it’s officially called, is different from other respiratory illnesses like SARS, MERS, and the seasonal flu.
For example, people around the world contend with seasonal flu every year. That fact, along with the presence of flu vaccines, has allowed people to build up immunity to it. This strain of coronavirus is new, so very few people have a natural immunity against the disease.
He also called COVID-19 a “more serious disease” than the seasonal flu.
“It is a unique virus with unique characteristics,” he said.
Millions Of Deaths?
As The Atlantic reported in February, by some estimates the coronavirus will affect 40 to 70 percent of the world’s population by the time it has run its course. Looking at the low end of the figures, out of a world population of 7.65 billion, 3.06 billion will come down with the virus, using the 40 percent statistic.
The vast majority of those people will have mild symptoms or even no symptoms at all, according to health officials.
“There’s another whole cohort that is either asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic,” said Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
However, with a fatality rate of 3.4 percent, if 3 billion people get sick with coronavirus worldwide, then the number of expected deaths, mathematically, would be 102 million. By comparison, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 is believed to have killed 50 million people.
The Math Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story
Of course, estimates are just that: estimates. What’s more, health officials note that one’s likelihood of dying from COVID-19, or even contracting it in the first place, depends on a number of factors. One key to the disease’s fatality rate is the country in which the victim contracted and/or is treated for the disease.
For these reasons and others, Fauci expects that the disease’s fatality rate will be adjusted downward again as time goes on.
Coronavirus Is Here In The United States
The U.S. has, as of this writing, 130 known cases of the virus, according to CNN, and nine people have died from the disease so far.