Don’t Panic!’ Expert seeks to calm fears over coronavirus death rate increase

Dr Jennifer Ashton, ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent, was appearing on Good Morning America, when she made the remarks. She explained that the speed at which the coronavirus is spreading among populations throughout the world is making it very difficult to accurately determine infection and death rates. The doctor added that researchers are collecting data “by the hour” and that the illness and mortality rates could change on any given day.

Dr Ashton said: “I really caution people not to hang their hat on any given number.

“This is a dynamic and evolving situation. We’re collecting data literally by the hour and that mortality rate depends on the denominator.

“It depends on how many people are truly infected and that number is still unknown.”

Her comments echoed those made by Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

He told a congressional health subcommittee on Wednesday, that it was far to early to establish the death rate in the US due to lack of reliable information about the number of people infected with the virus.

Rep Andy Harris (R-MD) asked whether fatality rates were unreliable noting: “We don’t know the denominator.”

“You said it, sir,” Dr Fauci replied.

“If you look at the cases that have come to the attention of the medical authorities, in China, and you just do the math – the math is about two percent.

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“If you look at certain age groups, certain risk groups, the fatality is much higher.”

Data provided by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the overall fatality rate in the country was 2.3 percent.

However, that figure widely fluctuated depending on the age group.

Most at risk are the over 80s, where the mortality rate is as high as 14.8 percent, followed by over 50s, where the rate is 1.3 percent.

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For those under 40, the rate drops even further to 0.4 percent.

To date 11 people have died from the coronavirus in the US out of 165 reported cases, making the death rate at roughly 6.5 percent.

But, of the patients who have died, one was in his 40s, two in their 50s and everyone else age 69 or older.

This comes as leading molecular geneticist clams that a vaccine for COVID 19 could be ready in just a few months time.

Dr Kate Broderick, 42, works for the pharmaceutical company Inovio and is developing a gene-based vaccine.

As opposed to traditional vaccines, gene-based ones can be developed within months and in much larger quantities.

Using information from China on the COVID-19’s genetic sequence, Dr Broderick has been able to design a DNA medicine in just under three hours and is confident she can have vaccine ready within a few months.

She told The Scotsman: “We were targeting early summer for the start of the first clinical trial and even on the basis of that timescale it was really fast.

“But we’ve been really lucky and we’re able to say now that we’re hoping to start that clinical trial in April.

“That’s approximately four months from when we first knew about the virus to getting this into human testing. So, that’s really quite an achievement on our part.”

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