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Case fatality rate of Covid-19: Losing more sleep over denominators

Corona virus disease 2019 (Covid-19) appears to have first infected humans in the Wuhan province of China sometime in late 2019.1 In many of the earliest identified cases, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory infection symptoms, rapidly developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), acute respiratory failure, and death have occurred. The virus has since been identified in, and is presumed to have spread to, many regions of the world. Fears of a possible pandemic have led to some level of panic in the US and around the world, with stocks of surgical grade masks disappearing from pharmacy shelves and online sellers faster than manufacturers have been able to keep up. Global stock markets have also reacted with some level of panic.

During a 25 February 2020 Senate hearing regarding 2021 budget request issues,2 the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, was asked by Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana a question about the novel corona virus now known as Covid-19: “What’s the mortality rate so far?”

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Deaths from Traumatic Brain Injury, 1999 to 2010

This week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)[1] highlighted new mortality rates for children due to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), as shown in the figure below.

TBI mortality
The figure shows age-specific mortality rates for three age groups: 0-4 years, 5-14 years, and 15-19 years. Mortality rates declined dramatically for the 15-19 year old group over the 12 years studied. Starting at approximately 23 deaths per 100,000 person-years in 1999, the mortality rate declined by an average by 1 death per 100,000 person-years each year, reaching 12 deaths per 100,000 person-years in 2010.

The rates for the 15-19 year-olds coincides well with a recent report of declining traffic fatalities in that age group, where the mortality rate went from approximately 40 per 100,000 person-years to about 20 per 100,000 person-years from 1999 to 2010, also a 50% drop.

CDC MMWR RTA Mortality 1999-2010

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