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What is known about the clinical severity of COVID-19?

When infected with COVID-19, some people may exhibit no or minor symptoms, while others may become very sick, or even die. The severity of the virus ranges from person to person. Older people and people with preexisting health issues such as heart and lung disease have had a higher risk of developing more severe COVID-19 illnesses.

A large World Health Organization study of nearly 56,000 confirmed cases in China showed that about 80% of cases were mild to moderate, while 14% were severe and 6% were critical. Critical cases exhibited respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction/failure.

As of September 3, around 3.3% of reported COVID-19 cases (globally) had died. In the US, 3% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. The current mortality for known cases of COVID-19 is about 1.6% in South Korea and 3.8% in Germany, countries where there has been widespread testing. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills about 0.1% of those infected on average.

Because many mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 infections go unreported, it is thought the case fatality ratio is lower than 2%, possibly somewhere between 0.5% and 1%; but that would still mean that COVID-19 is many more times deadly than the flu, and very dangerous.

For the most recent counts of confirmed COVID-19 cases, deaths, and recoveries, visit this dashboard.

Drafted: 3 September 2020

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