Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID-19 Deaths and the Link to Pre-existing Conditions

Updated April 7, 2020

Now that Italy finds itself at the pinnacle of COVID-19 deaths, a recent study by the Instituto Superiore di Sanita (ISS) also known as the Italian National Institute of Health, is particularly pertinent given the global panic over the "deadly" novel coronavirus.  Let's look at some of the ISS's findings.

The paper that was written on March 30, 2020, looked at the deaths of 10,026 patients as shown on this table:

As you can see, 6,366 of the deaths or 63.5 percent of the total came from the Lombardy region with the next highest number at 1,432 or 14.3 percent of the total coming from the Emilia-Romagna region (capital city of Bologna) located in the northwest corner of Italy.

Here is a graphic showing the median age of those tested and dying from COVID-19:

The median age of Italians dying from COVID-19 is 79 years with a range from 261 years of age to 100 years of age.  The average age of death was 78 years.

Here is a graphic showing the number of deaths by age group:

As you can see, substantially more men than women have died as a result of COVID-19 and most of those dying have been in the age range of between 70 and 89 years of age with only 222 deaths or 2.21 percent of the total being age 49 or younger.  Of those younger than 40, many had serious pre-existing conditions including cardiovascular, renal, diabetes, obesity and psychiatric diseases.

Now, let's look at the most important aspect of this paper.  The authors looked at the pre-existing conditions exhibited by those who died as a result of COVID-19.  The authors obtained this data by looking at the most common pre-existing chronic pathologies in a representative sample of 909  in hospital deaths out of the 10,026 deaths and found the following:

1.) The average number of pathologies observed in this population is 2.7 (median 3, Standard Deviation 1.6). 

2.) 2.1 percent had 0 pathologies.

3.) 21.6 percent had 1 pathology.

4.) 24.5 percent had 2 pathologies.

5.) 51.7 percent had 3 or more pathologies.

This means that 97.9 percent of those Italians whose complete medical history was examined and whose death was associated with the current COVID-19 pandemic had pre-existing conditions.

Here is a table showing the most common pre-existing conditions that were noted among those who had died:

When looking at Italy's situation we have to consider the state of its health care system - as shown in this graphic from the 2018 edition of the Euro Health Consumer Index by Health Consumer Powerhouse, compared to its developed economy European peers, Italy's health care system is poorly ranked:

In addition, let's look at a satellite image from the European Space Agency showing the pollution measured using nitrogen dioxide over northern Italy in January 2020:

This research begs the question; is the global panic over the COVID-19 pandemic warranted when put into perspective against other common health conditions?  As a person with a science background, I find the lack of a scientific approach to this pandemic appalling; no one (particularly those in government) seems to be questioning whether the the death rate among those with pre-existing conditions are similar to the death rates that we experience during the normal seasonal influenza season.  I believe that my sense of this reality is particularly pertinent when we compare the latest coronavirus panic to the far more widespread seasonal influenza as shown on this graphic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

I don't know why but my feeling is that we are the unwitting subjects of a gigantic social experiment.


  1. Reads like a reasonable conclusion given the reportage of cases.
    The fear and panic are the result of tremendous mis-information from govt. and msm, coupled with an extremely apathétique citizenry.
    Thankyou for the important essay.

  2. It is all nice and dandy, but certain things need also be considered: covid is far more contagious and can spread much wider in the population as the flue (for which we have vaccines and some immunity). Add to that the higher mortality rate of covid, influenza season is less impressive.