CDC Analysis Shows COVID-19 Deaths Highest Among Elderly

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Published Online: Thursday, March 19th, 2020
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is rapidly spreading across the United States. There have been at least 170,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) reported globally, including about 7000 deaths in an estimated 150 countries, according to the World Health Organization.1 

Data from China has demonstrated that older adults, especially those with serious health conditions, are at higher risk of severe COVID-19-associated illness and death than younger individuals.2 The majority of cases in China were mild (81%); however, about 80% of the deaths occurred among adults aged 60 years and older.2 A new CDC report analyzed COVID-19 cases in the United States that occurred during February 12- March 16, 2020, and the disease severity was examined by age group.2

Report Design and Results
A total of 4226 COVID-19 cases in the US were reported to the CDC, during the studied period, with multiple cases from long-term care facilities.2 Data was reported to the CDC from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 3 US territories. Overall, 31% of cases, 45% of hospitalizations, 53% of ICU admissions, and 80% of deaths associated with COVID-19 were among adults aged 65 years and older.

Deaths were highest among individuals aged 85 years and older (10% to 27%), followed by people aged 65-84 years (3% to 11%), aged 55-64 years (1% to 3%), aged 20-54 years (less than 1%), and none among those aged 19 years and younger. Among the 508 patients known to have been hospitalized, 20% were aged 20-44 years and 18% were aged 45-54 years, which demonstrates COVID-19 is also affecting younger adults.2   

This report provides important information regarding the increased mortality risk among older adults. However, the report has limitations such as missing data on age, hospitalization, ICU admission, and death for 9% to 53% of cases, which may have affected the results.2 Also, other serious underlying health conditions that could increase the risk of complications from COVID-19 were not available for the report.2       

Public Health Implications
The US is taking important measures to combat COVID-19 by trying to “flatten the curve” to prevent overwhelming the health care system.  Social distancing is recommended for all age groups to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ensure that patients needing medical assistance are able to access hospitals, and protect older adults at risk.2

Life has drastically changed globally, and it is important to keep analyzing the data to learn more about COVID-19 so that those most at risk for developing serious complications are protected.   

 
REFERENCES
  1. WHO. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation report-57. WHO website.  https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200317-sitrep-57-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=a26922f2_2. Published March 17, 2020. Accessed March 18, 2020.
  2. Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – United States, February 12-March 16, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 18 March 2020. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6912e2.   



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