Is Coronavirus Mortality Rate Inflated?
Germany recently started an interesting research project in Heinsberg, a rural county close to Cologne that has become a Coronavirus hotspot. The county directly adjoins the Dutch border, where the first and deadliest Coronavirus outbreak so far in Germany took place.
The municipality of Gangelt in Heinsberg saw an explosion of the Coronavirus due to a carnival that took occured on February 12th. A number of potential superspreaders reportedly attended this carnival and infected many citizens.
Mass events are perfect environments for the virus to spread. The state of Louisiana saw an outbreak of Coronavirus from their Mardi Gras festival. Rebekah Gee, head of Louisiana State University’s healthcare services division, said, “Mardi Gras was the perfect storm, it provided the perfect conditions for the spread of this virus.”
Niki Popper, a mathematician from Vienna’s Technical University, runs a team that has been developing software for a simulation that could assist governments with their predictions of the potential future spread of the Coronavirus. She said, “Mass events are a perfect opportunity for the virus, as people meet total strangers.”
The carnival at Gangelt included numerous events with dancing, sharing of beer flasks, kissing, hugging and singing; all methods that could expedite the spread of the Coronavirus throughout the community.
Gangelt is now a fantastic data set to be analyzed.
Prof. Dr. Hendrik Streeck of the Institute of Virology at the University Hospital in Bonn and colleagues studied 1,000 of the residents from Gangelt and the findings were quite notable.
The first interim results were published on April 9th and showed a mortality rate at just 0.37% vs 0.1% for the seasonal flu.
This a number far lower than the global levels of around 5% and higher in some countries according to Johns-Hopkins University.
All of Germany is only reporting a 2% mortality rate for those infected. Why the difference in Gangelt?
First and foremost, in Gangelt, this study includes asymptomatic, mild and severe afflictions of the Covid-19. In almost every country finding testing is especially hard and as a Rebellion writer documented yesterday, getting a test for the severely ill in the United States is still exceptionally hard.
As a result, most countries are not going to test the mild and asymptomatic patients, thus leading to extremely skewed mortality rates.
In early March, Ohio’s Director of Public Health estimated more than 100,000 Coronavirus infections in the state. This was in direct contrast to the CDC’s official estimate at the time of just a number of patients.
The scientists also found that in Gangelt the Coronavirus had spread to over 14% of the population, possibly all originating from the carnival in February. They also found that a further 2% of the population of Gangelt was still infected with the virus.
So is the Coronavirus far less lethal than global reports are pointing to currently?
The average age of Gangelt is 43.7 while Germany is 45.9, so Gangelt’s data is not skewed young. Coupled with the low mortality rate of 0.37%, there is a case to be made for a much lower Coronavirus mortality rate than has been accepted.
The mortality rate based on the total population in Gangelt is currently 0.15% compared to 0.11% for the rest of Germany.
Furthermore, it's possible that the Coronavirus is actually far less infectious than we think due to social distancing and attention to hygiene.
Nicholas Christakis, a doctor and social science researcher at Yale University believes that looking at hospitals where the virus clusters is a great model for infection rates. Dr. Christakis says “If you see 5% positive in your health-care workers, that means infection rates probably aren’t higher than that in your city.”
In regards to the Gangelt study, Dr. Christakis comments, “It’s very preliminary, but it’s the kind of study we desperately need.”
Dr. Streeck, who ran the study, also found that infections didn’t come from general day-to-day interactions at the supermarket or the park. “Most infections didn’t take place in supermarkets or restaurants. One pattern we are seeing across the globe is that wherever there was singing and dancing, the virus spread more rapidly.” Therefore, it may be the case that the virus spreads the most in “events where people spend a length of time in each others’ close company.”
This makes sense considering the state of Washington in the US saw a superspreading event from a choral practice where 45 out of the 60 members became infected with the virus.
Whatever the true infection rate is, this study from Gangelt, Germany definitely raises questions about the real mortality rate of the Coronavirus.
Written by Alexander Fleiss & Edited by Michael Ding