An article I found today in The Week showed statistics from the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene about death rates in NYC. It reported that about half the coronavirus cases are found in adults under 45 years of age. Is that expected, or is it an anomaly? We hear that coronavirus is attacking the elderly.
Specifically, the total number of cases was 15,597 as of Tuesday afternoon with 46% in patients under 45 years of age. Nine percent were hospitalized and there were five deaths in this group. Twenty-two percent of the total deaths were in the 45-64 years of age. Twenty-three percent of the total deaths were between 65-74 years of age. The remaining fifty-two percent of deaths were in adults over 75 years of age. 95% of all deaths had some pre-existing health conditions.
The typical pre-existing conditions reported around the world are in three major groups – diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. Obviously, any type of upper respiratory condition is a problem, especially if you are over 65 years of age. The NYC statistics labeled the following as pre-existing conditions – diabetes, cancer, immunodeficiency, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, kidney disease, and gastrointestinal/liver disease.
Is this expected? Each area of the world has different demographics. NYC has a higher population density than rural cities under 100,000 people. A higher population density aids the spread of any disease – people are living closer to each other. There are over 63,000 confirmed coronavirus patients in Italy with a death rate of 9.5%. China, on the other hand, has over 81,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus with a death rate of 4%. NYC’s death rate is 1.2%.
Additionally, the timing of the virus contributes to death rates. China has experienced more time having coronavirus. Italy has more time with the virus than NYC. The statistics can and probably will climb of a death rate of 1.2% in NYC. Lock-down, house-arrest, shelter-in-place stops the contagion from spreading. The sooner coronavirus is isolated from the non-infected population, the quicker it can run itself out and become extinct for this year.
Is it an anomaly? It is very difficult to compare NYC to Italy or China. Demographics is a major factor. A study in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) this week found 40% of the infections and 87% of the deaths in patients over 70 years of age. The median age of the country is another factor. China’s median age is 46, whereas Italy is 67.
Life expectancy is a factor also. China’s life expectancy is 77.47. Italy’s life expectancy is 84.01. The United States expects people to live to 79.11 years of age. As a person approaches their life expectancy age, the life expectancy changes – it increases. An 80-year-old man in Italy can probably expect to reach 86 or more years of age.
The coronavirus death rate is increased because there are more people living to older ages in Italy compared to China or the United States. The life expectancy in New York is 81.3 as of 2016. There are more older people living in New York than in China.
Medical problems increase with an older population. This taxes the health care and hospital systems in their cities. Finding an older person with a single malady is not as common as finding another person of that same age with multiple health problems – high blood pressure, asthma, and diabetes.
Coronavirus exacerbates the deaths in the elderly because of pre-existing conditions. It does not mean that a 37-year-old with no health issues is not at risk of death from coronavirus. It means that the risk is higher for older people. But the risk is still there for everyone.
If someone has pneumonia and is 77 years of age and dies of pneumonia, is that statistic counted as a pneumonia death or a coronavirus death? How many people have the coronavirus and have no symptoms or have not been tested yet? The statistics eventually catch up, but that is not what is being reported. Italy’s new cases appear to be leveling off. Their quarantine is not quite two weeks old. I expect to see their death rate statistics decrease as I expect to see NYC (and the United States) statistics increase
Avoiding people with the disease is the best way to reduce the risk of infection. With coronavirus being contagious before symptoms occur, this is nearly impossible. Quarantining and other isolation measures are critical to getting a hold of and ahead of the further spread of coronavirus.
Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin