100,000 lives lost to COVID-19 in the world: Why the virus has hit some countries harder than others

Today, April 11, the number of fatalities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic crossed 102,000. As of now, the death toll is highest in Italy.

Myupchar April 11, 2020 12:12:10 IST
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100,000 lives lost to COVID-19 in the world: Why the virus has hit some countries harder than others

Today, April 11, the number of fatalities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic crossed 102,000. As of now, the death toll is highest in Italy - more than 18,800 with about 1.4 lakh infected people. More than 18,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the USA, a country with over 5 lakh cases and more than 16,000 have succumbed to the disease in Spain with 1.5 lakh cases.

In India, Maharashtra has the highest death toll, with 110 deaths (with over 1,500 positive cases) so far followed by Madhya Pradesh where 33 people have died of COVID-19 out of the 435 positive cases.

100000 lives lost to COVID19 in the world Why the virus has hit some countries harder than others

Representational image. Image courtesy: t_watanabe from Pixabay

On the other hand, despite having more than 1.2 lakh cases, Germany has considerably controlled the fatality - over 2,700 people have died in the country and more than 53,000 have already recovered. 

So what is Germany doing that the other countries with high fatality rates are not? And is there a particular reason why the US, Italy and Spain got the worst of the pandemic? 

Death rate

Since the virus is new and the pandemic is still going on, it is difficult to estimate the exact fatality rate of the disease. Earlier, it was put at about 3.4% by the World Health Organisation. However, recent studies put it at about 1.4% - and 0.66% if you include mild and moderate cases. The death rate for each country varies further with more deaths being reported in high-risk groups - the elderly (above 60 years of age), those with chronic diseases and immunocompromised patients.

Since Italy was the first country to have a high COVID-19 fatality rate, much more is being theorised about the possible causes of the deaths there. 

An older population is being considered one of the major reasons for Italy’s high death rate. Many deaths in Italy have been in the age group of 70-90. The country's median age is 67 as opposed to the median age of 47 in China. By this age, a lot of people develop one or another health condition that may compromise their immune system, further putting them at risk of severe infection. Studies show that 87% of deaths in Italy have been in people over 70 years of age.

The high death rate in Italy is also being attributed to the way the country is defining coronavirus death. An article published on Nature, the online portal for the research journal Nature, said that in Italy, any person who died after contracting coronavirus disease was counted as a fatality regardless of if they died of a comorbidity (another underlying health condition).

And finally, due to the huge ageing population, the hospitals in Italy quickly became overwhelmed, which lead to more deaths. 

Italy is being used as an example of the worst-case scenario and what could be the possible problems that a country could face.

However, some experts say that Italy still hasn’t counted all the mild and moderate cases and when the final count shows up, the death rate may be much lower than what is being considered right now.

The US is also seeing a shortage of protective equipment and ventilators. The condition in low and middle-income countries, where healthcare facilities are not as good remains a big concern right now.

Epidemiologists are considering counting deaths per day to get a better picture of the disease and to get an idea on how to best deal with severe cases.

The Germany scenario

Quite opposite to Italy, Germany reportedly prepared earlier for COVID-19 and used a combination of widespread and early testing with contact tracing to suppress the death rate - Germany is doing about 350,000 tests a week right now. So, while the total number of cases in Germany remains high, the fatalities are significantly less. 

To test and monitor home quarantined patients, something called corona taxis have been started in Heidelberg, a town in the German state Baden-Württemberg. The taxis have medical professionals in PPEs, who visit home quarantined coronavirus patients at the end of the first week - 6th day to be precise - to take a sample of their blood and to check if their condition is deteriorated. 

Those who are expected to get severe symptoms are then hospitalised so they can get better care. Sometimes, the medics would even suggest a person with an otherwise milder looking infection to get admitted to the hospital if they think the person is likely to get lung damage.

For more information, read our article on WHO’s five steps to keep COVID-19 at bay.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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