Italy's Coronavirus Could Reach 3.3 Million

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Italy's Coronavirus Could Reach 3.3 Million
Italy's Coronavirus Could Reach 3.3 Million

Italian mathematicians compared data on deaths of people with coronavirus infection (COVID-19) in Italy, Germany and on the Diamond Princess ship and concluded that the prevalence of infection in Italy is greatly underestimated. The real number of cases of infection can range from 140 thousand to 3.3 million people. Scientists write about this in a preprint published by the electronic scientific library medRxiv.

"The data on mortality from the Diamond Princess ship is interesting because they are absolutely accurate - in this case, cases of covert spread of infection are excluded. Using them and various estimates of the mortality rate of COVID-19, we showed that the number of infected people in Italy is several times higher than the current official data, "the researchers write.

The main distinguishing feature of the novel coronavirus epidemic in Italy is the very high mortality rate compared to other countries. According to official statistics, every ninth infected Italian dies from COVID-19 or complications associated with this disease, while in the USA, China, Germany and a number of other countries with a large number of infected, this figure usually does not exceed 1–2.5%.

Epidemiologists have long been trying to explain this phenomenon, linking it both with the difficult environmental situation in northern Italy and with a large proportion of elderly people in the country's population, and with the fact that the real number of cases of infection is greatly underestimated. This is due to both the small number of tests and the fact that many cases of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus are mild or asymptomatic.

Scientists from the University of Campania (Italy) and their colleagues tried to estimate how many COVID-19 are infected in Italy. They relied on information on the lethality of the virus obtained in February this year during the outbreak of coronavirus infection aboard the Diamond Princess liner.

Hidden reservoir of infection

Comparing this information with data from Italy and Germany, mathematicians came to the conclusion that the number of infections in Italy is greatly underestimated even with the highest estimates of the mortality of the coronavirus. In this case, the real number of infected people is not 74 thousand, as official statistics say (as of March 25, 2020, when the preprint was written), but 140 thousand people now and will reach 200 thousand patients in the future.

If the coronavirus, according to British experts, kills about 0.2% of infected patients, the number of infected in Italy at the end of March could reach 3.3 million people and by the end of the epidemic could reach 6.5 million people. Its peak, as the researchers predict, will be in the first week of April.

What is the reason for such a rapid spread of the infection, scientists cannot yet say. However, they suggest that this is due to the very developed public transport system in Italy. More than 15 million residents of the country use it every day. In addition, the researchers believe that one of the reasons is the large number of close contacts between Italians.

About the new coronavirus

Now in the world there are about 910 thousand cases of infection with the new coronavirus (while in Italy there are already more than 110 thousand), more than 47 thousand infected have died, about 196 thousand people have recovered. Outside the PRC, the disease COVID-19, which causes this virus, has been identified in 180 countries, including Russia.

A vaccine for this disease is now being developed in many countries of the world, including Russia. Several scientific groups have already begun testing the drugs on animals. Nevertheless, scientists cannot yet say the exact timing of the appearance of a drug for COVID-19 - estimates vary from six months to 2-3 years.

An outbreak of COVID-19 was recorded in December last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan. In early March, the World Health Organization acknowledged that the disease had spread throughout the world, calling the situation a pandemic.

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