By Smriti Mallapaty
For every 1,000 people infected with the coronavirus who are under the age of 50, almost none will die. For people in their fifties and early sixties, about five will die — more men than women. The risk then climbs steeply as the years accrue. For every 1,000 people in their mid-seventies or older who are infected, around 116 will die. These are the stark statistics obtained by some of the first detailed studies into the mortality risk for COVID-19.
Trends in coronavirus deaths by age have been clear since early in the pandemic. Research teams looking at the presence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in people in the general population — in Spain, England, Italy and Geneva in Switzerland — have now quantified that risk, says Marm Kilpatrick, an infectious-disease researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
“It gives us a much sharper tool when asking what the impact might be on a certain population that has a certain demographic,” says Kilpatrick.
The studies reveal that age is by far the strongest predictor of an infected person’s risk of dying — a metric known as the infection fatality ratio (IFR), which is the proportion of people infected with the virus, including those who didn’t get tested or show symptoms, who will die as a result.
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