Right from the start of the Coronavirus story, there have been fearful predictions of the death rate. This is why even healthy under 65’s are scared of what may happen to them. But as the epidemic progresses and more research is done, the picture changes dramatically. Here we look at the real risk of demise for healthy under 65’s. We accept that those over 65 or with existing health conditions do need to be shielded; but they only make up 20% of the population. Let’s look at the other 80%.
The Case Fatality Rate (CFR) has been widely and correctly reported as around 8% in European countries. That really is a scary figure. But 90% of these deaths occur in the vulnerable groups, who as we have already stated, need to be shielded. The good news is that for healthy under 65’s the rate is only one tenth of that figure; that is 0.8%. That is still high. However, it refers to the CFR, which is the rate of deaths among confirmed cases of the virus. It has also been widely and correctly reported that many people infected are asymptomatic (that is, they don’t even know they have it) or have mild symptoms like a cold. The big question has been “What percentage of actual cases are confirmed?” If this figure were 50%, then the actual fatality rate would only be half of 0.8%, which is 0.4%. How low can the rate go?
Fortunately we now have some solid research carried out by Stanford University in Santa Clara, which is in the San Francisco Bay area of California. Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Professor of Medicine, and colleagues tested 3,300 people for antibodies to the virus. That’s a big sample, far ahead of anything else done so far. The fact of someone having antibodies means they have experienced an infection and gained immunity. The results indicated that the number of infected people is 50 to 85 times what county officials recorded as confirmed cases.
Now we have some more numbers to do some maths with. Our 0.8% death rate needs to reduce by something between 50 and 85. If we take the mid-point of those two figures, which is 67.5 ,that gives us 0.8% divided by 67.5, or 0.012%. That’s 12 chances of dying out of 100,000, or about one chance in over 8,000. Your risk of dying in car crash in the UK this year is about 1 in 20,000. Does that figure worry you? Does that make you stay at home permanently? The risks are in the same order of magnitude. If fear of a road death doesn’t change your behaviour, and you are a healthy under 65, Covid19 should not be a reason to change your life either. Nor a reason for anyone else to force you to change it.
(Note. For those who are not comfortable with percentages, a 1% chance of something happening is already only 1 in 100. A tenth of that, 0.1%, is only 1 in 1,000. As the decimal places move further to the right, the chances reduce dramatically; ten times smaller for each move to the right.)