As few as 14% of people in Wuhan with early coronavirus infections were being detected

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

The chance of someone with symptomatic Covid-19 in Wuhan dying varied by age:

For those aged 15 to 44, the fatality rate was 0.5%, though it might have been as low as 0.1% or as high as 1.3%. For people 45 to 64, the fatality rate was also 0.5%, with a possible low of 0.2% and a possible high of 1.1%. For those over 64, it was 2.7%, with a low and high estimate of 1.5% and 4.7%.

The chance of serious illness from coronavirus infection in younger people was so low, the scientists estimate a fatality rate of zero.

As physicians and researchers have seen since the start of the outbreak, many infected people never become sick. As few as 14% of people in Wuhan with early coronavirus infections were being detected, said epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, who led a study published on Monday in Science on undocumented coronavirus infections.


  1. Graham says:

    The link to Science is dead.

  2. Graham says:

    The statnews story is interesting, in particular where it discusses the worst case scenario of everyone getting infected or a majority, versus a more measured 25% to a third “absent social distancing or a vaccine”. So we have quite a lot of social distancing, so presumably we can cut that to less than a quarter. Unless this virus is also orders of magnitude more complicated than usual (?) I presume it is not unreasonable to expect a vaccine for the next season at least. Unless it also mutates faster than flu coronas. So maybe we can cut it further. But 25% sounds like a lot to the uninitiated.

    But that raises an interesting question in the wider context of the article as it discusses possible real numbers of infected including asymptomatic, versus cases.

    Presuming that huge number of 25%+ is meant to include asymptomatic people. Or people whose symptoms are so light they assume cold/flu. FOr most diseases we don’t test people who don’t complain about being ill. Do we have any idea at all what the IFR is for flu or anything else every year?

    I ask for many reasons but one is, 25%!!! WTF!!!! Do normal diseases catch that many people, even including people who never know it, or not? Does that mean COVID is still more virulent, even if not more lethal, or as much more lethal, after all? And what does that mean for future mutation/containment/immunity strategies?

    I had been assuming regular disease like seasonal flu never infect anywhere near 25% of the population. Even without vaccine- it’s not so long ago there was no vaccine.

  3. Paul from Canada says:

    I read somewhere recently, that the 1918 flu had an approximate infection rate of something like 20% of the population, not sure where I read that though…

  4. Kirk says:

    Two things: One, I’m pretty sure it got here to the US months ago, and has been lurking in the background ever since. It’s either that, or there’s another flu/cold variant that closely mimics the symptoms reported for COVID-19, and which has been hitting everyone.

    Two, when all this is over, the numbers are probably going to show that the reactive measures taken probably will kill more people than just relaxing and letting the disease take its course naturally. The numbers of people who are asymptomatic and still carrying the disease make me wonder what the hell has been driving the over-reaction, because that’s what I think this is. Previous pandemics like the Asian flu of ’57 and the Hong Kong flu of ’68 were not treated in this manner, and as best I can tell, both of those had far worse effects and killed more people. The ’09 H1N1 pandemic and the ’19-’20 flu season appear to be killing more people, so… WTF?

    As Paul points out, the IFR number is the interesting one. The pundits have all been comparing apples and oranges with these numbers up to now–The flu IFR rate is based on an estimate of how many people out in the population have had the flu, while the COVID-19 number is based on the confirmed case number via testing–Which, due to the nature of things, is horrendously higher. The limited number of tests that have been done out in “the wild” would tend to increase the COVID-19 number to the point that I have to say that we really don’t even know what we don’t know.

    Said it before, and I’ll say it again: The prudent thing to do, as a nation, is survey, survey, survey, and survey again. That doctor in Seattle had the right damn idea, and the career apparatchiks at the CDC shut her down. We absolutely need to be swabbing and sequencing everyone who comes into the US, particularly from the Third World nations, and doing the same at random out in the population. If we’d done that, we’d know whether or not the damn COVID-19 virus was already here, or whether there was just something that mimics it.

    The CDC and all the other agencies that have been wasting money on “social outreach” and all the other crap they have been doing besides their jobs need to be shut the hell down, and all their employees fired. What we replace them with needs to be designed to do the damn job, and stay on track even during the “boring years” when there’s nothing going on, disease-wise.

    I think I mentioned the gentleman I knew who was an Army NBC officer with a microbiology degree, and who’d worked in that arena at USAMRIID. We’re seeing what he predicted to me back around 2001 with the anthrax deal–Most of the government agencies are staffed with incompetents and time-servers who are more concerned with building their little empires than actually doing their jobs, and they’ve got the imagination and initiative you’d associate with the DMV. Most of the talent that goes into government employment usually winds up leaving after only a few years and enough time to build resume credit before heading out to the biotechnology frontiers to make big money, leaving the jobsworthies and idiots behind. Hearing his take on what was going on at USAMRIID and throughout the biowarfare defense community was scary as hell, because most of what he’s predicted has come true: They never caught the bastards behind the anthrax attacks, the witch-hunts in the government biowarfare community drove a lot of good people out of it, and the response to this COVID-19 situation is in perfect alignment with what he said they’d be doing if something like this turned up. Dude was a serious downer to talk to, about these issues. Appeared to know his sh*t, though.

    What was interesting, too, was that he’d gotten moved out of USAMRIID in order to “round out” his career track as an NBC officer–Never mind that he was wasted as a line NBC guy, what with his background and experience. And, then–They put his ass on staff, rather than giving him a command. Typical Army assignments idiocy, more focused on ticket-punches than actual mission accomplishment and proper personnel utilization.

  5. Paul from Canada says:

    As Kirk said, “survey, survey, survey!”

    South Korea has done a bunch more testing than anyone else, and (surprise!) seems to have a lower death rate.

  6. Paul from Canada says:

    Link goes to a blogger who refers to a study (you can get a link to the actual study as a pdf.),of the passengers on the Diamond Princess.

    Direct quotes from his article;

    -83% (confidence interval of 82.7% – 83.9%) of the passengers never got the disease at all. Said the other way, only 17% of the passengers were infected.

    -The oldest portion of the passengers, over 80 years old, had a higher infection rate: 25%, but that’s not even twice the rate of the general population.

    -Slightly less than half the passengers (48.6% ± 2.0%) who would test positive for the disease did NOT get sick and showed NO symptoms. They never knew they had it.

    -The young (under 20) and old (over 50) disproportionally showed no symptoms after being infected

    -The overall, age-adjusted death rate was 1.2% (7 cases total)

    Even more hopeful and interesting is that the confidence in the IFR is not high because the low number of actual deaths means the sample size is small.

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