Story at a glance

  • U.S. health officials’ estimate is in contrast to the World Health Organization’s numbers, which recorded the global mortality rate at 3.4 percent.
  • More than 100 people have been infected in the U.S. in at least 16 states.
  • At least nine deaths have been reported.

Health officials in the United States say the novel coronavirus has a mortality rate of about 2 percent, making it more deadly than the seasonal flu.

“If you look at the cases that have come to the attention of the medical authorities in China, and you just do the math, the math is about 2 percent,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday during a House Appropriations Committee hearing.

“If you look at certain age groups, certain risk groups, the fatality is much higher. But as a group it’s going to depend completely on what the factor of asymptotic cases are. So if you have asymptotic cases that are a lot, it’s going to come down,” he added.


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Fauci’s comments come just one day after the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that about 3.4 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases have been fatal.

The WHO head said a team from China found a fatality rate of between 2 percent and 4 percent in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, and 0.7 percent outside the city. Still, officials have struggled to establish an accurate death rate since many people with mild cases do not show symptoms and may decline to seek treatment.

Fauci said Wednesday he believed the WHO figure was elevated based on differences in the estimated number of asymptomatic cases.

“What we’re hearing right now, on a recent call from the WHO this morning, is that there aren’t as many asymptomatic cases as we think. Which made them elevate, I think, what their mortality is," he said.

Tedros and Fauci both compared the mortality rate of COVID-19 with the seasonal flu, which is just 0.1 percent.

In the U.S., the coronavirus has infected more than 100 people and killed nine, all in the Seattle area. At least 16 states have confirmed cases.


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Published on Mar 04, 2020