A new study suggests that the number of coronavirus cases in the US USA In March, it could have been 80 times higher and doubled almost twice as fast as originally reported, representing more than 8.7 million cases of undiagnosed coronavirus.
The report, led by researchers at Penn State University (PSU), analyzed surveillance data on influenza-like illness (ILI) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that were never diagnosed as coronavirus, influenza or any other virus over a three-week period in March, according to the study published in the journal Medicine Translational Medicine.
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“The findings support a scenario in which more than 8.7 million new SARS-CoV-2 infections appeared in the US during March and estimate that more than 80% of these cases remained unidentified as the outbreak spread quickly, “Justin Silverman of Penn State, Alex Washburne of Montana State University and colleagues at Cornell University and elsewhere wrote, CNN reported.
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Only around 100,000 coronavirus cases were reported during that period in March, as there was a shortage of test kits at the time. More than 2.3 million cases have been reported in total in the US. USA With more than 120,000 deaths. Worldwide, more than 9.1 million cases have been confirmed.
“We analyzed ILI cases from each state to estimate the number that could not be attributed to influenza and exceeded seasonal reference levels,” Silverman said in a statement. Press release.
“When you subtract this, you’re left with what we call excess ILI: cases that cannot be explained by either the flu or the seasonal variation typical of respiratory pathogens,” Silverman added.
Silverman said investigators at first couldn’t believe their estimates were correct, but they found that deaths in the US USA They had doubled every three days and that the infection rate estimate was consistent with the three-day doubling since the first case observed on January 15 was reported in Washington state.
The researchers found that an increase in ILI in March showed an almost perfect correlation with the spread of the coronavirus across the country.
“This suggests that the ILI data is capturing COVID cases, and there appears to be a much larger undiagnosed population than originally thought,” Silverman said.
The researchers also estimated infection rates for each state, noting that states that show higher infection rates per capita also had higher per capita rates of an increase in excess ILI.
“Our results suggest that the overwhelming effects of COVID-19 may have less to do with the lethality of the virus and more to do with how quickly it initially spread through communities,” Silverman said.
“A lower mortality rate coupled with a higher prevalence of disease and a rapidly growing regional epidemic provides an alternative explanation for the large number of hospital deaths and overcrowding that we have seen in certain areas of the world.”
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