COVID-19 deaths significantly undercounted, report suggests

Erica Carbajal - Print  | 

The actual number of global COVID-19 deaths may be about 6.9 million, more than double the recorded amount, according to a study from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Valuation published May 6. 

As of May 6, there were more than 3.24 million reported COVID-19 deaths worldwide, according to data from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Resource Center. 

The study suggests that by May 3, the actual number of deaths was 6.93 million. Estimates show the U.S. has had 905,289 COVID-19 deaths, the highest of nearly every country. The CDC recorded 575,491 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. as of May 5. 

After the U.S., India, Mexico and Brazil had the highest number of unreported deaths, according to the report. 

In many countries, deaths were likely unreported because only deaths that occur in hospitals or in patients with a confirmed case are recorded, the report said. Additionally, deaths in high-income countries, particularly among older individuals in long-term care facilities were likely undercounted in the early stages of the pandemic. 

"Estimating the total COVID-19 death rate is important both for modeling the transmission dynamics of the disease to make better forecasts, and also for understanding the drivers of larger and smaller epidemics across different countries," the study says.  

The institute estimated total COVID-19 deaths by comparing anticipated deaths from all causes based on pre-pandemic trends with the actual number of all-cause deaths during the pandemic, known as excess mortality. The figure was then adjusted to exclude deaths indirectly linked to the pandemic, such as people with other conditions who avoided healthcare facilities. 

To view the full report, click here


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