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UW study shows staggering numbers of US COVID-19 infection, fatality rates

A recent University of Washington study shows the novel coronavirus is deadlier and more contagious than the flu.

SEATTLE — Researchers at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy worked to get a more accurate estimate of the fatality rates of people who get sick with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to their calculations, researchers said it's possible there may be between 350,000 and 1.2 million coronavirus deaths in the United States. These staggering numbers may put to rest the debate over which is deadlier, COVID-19 or the flu.

"In the whole of the United States, there were 30,000 to 35,000 deaths from flu in the first two months. This year from COVID, we have more than 100,000 deaths. Surely, this is a different beast that we are talking about,” said Dr. Anirban Basu, director of the Choice Institute at the UW School of Pharmacy.

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Dr. Basu said researchers developed a program that looked at infection and fatality rates across the U.S. by county. Data from 116 counties in 33 states was used to get a look at what is currently happening in communities across America. Dr. Basu warned that the program is not a forecasting tool, but instead considered a tool to track how infection rates in the U.S. are changing daily.

For example, they found that right now in Washington state fatality rates range 0.5% to 3.6% - the current rate in King County. Other areas include Chelan County at 2.3 % and Spokane County at 2%.

All this data is intended to uncover the central point of the research, which is to show a clearer picture of how deadly COVID-19 is to people who contract the virus.

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"The interesting thing that we have found here is that once we take those death rates and back-calculate how many symptomatic patients are there, and how many true infections are they in the community, we can get some sense of what the true spread of the infection is in the community," explained Dr. Basu.

Dr. Basu said as of right now, among the cases who fall sick, we are only reporting about 25%, which means there is a lot of data still missing. That's what they are trying to track with this study to help our leaders make informed decisions for public health.

VIEW: Coronavirus coverage from KING 5