Why 'Death Rates' From Coronavirus Can Be Deceiving

"Case fatality rates have been very confusing," says Dr. Steven Lawrence, an infectious disease expert. Here's why.
Coffins of deceased people stored in a warehouse near Bergamo — a city at the heart of Italy's coronavirus crisis — before being transported to another region for cremation. Source: Piero Cruciatti

The coronavirus appears to be much more lethal in some countries than in others.

In Italy, about 10% of people known to be infected have died. In Iran and Spain, the case fatality rate is higher than 7%. But in South Korea and the U.S. it's less than 1.5%. And in Germany, the figure is close to 0.5%.

So what gives?

The answer involves how many people are tested, the age of an infected population and factors such as whether the health care system is overwhelmed, scientists say.

"Case fatality rates have been very confusing," says , an infectious disease expert and associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St.

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