Age Out: Is this ‘The Plague’ in real life?

In their latest attempt to incite panic and sell ad space, the talking heads on Chicken Noodle News (CNN) are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of mass deaths in countries with less developed health care systems.  You can almost see the glint in their eye, hoping that much of the population in countries like Iran will be wiped out.  But given that about 80% of Iran’s population is under 54 years old, that’s unlikely.  It’s times like this I’m glad I live on an island that can isolate itself.

COVID-19 is peculiar in who it affects the most and least.  The average age of those who die is 75, and the vast majority of those who died were over 50 and had other health issues (e.g. diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, etc.).  Those least affected have been children under 10, youths under 20, pregnant women and women in general.  I have not seen any mention of deaths among pregnant women and those under age 20, and reports said less than 200 children worldwide were sick.  It makes you wonder if there’s something specific about age and resistance to the disease.  Medical staff in China who contracted the disease and died were younger (in their 30s), but they were constantly exposed and in close proximity, on top of working 16+ hours per day without days off since they began working.

If COVID-19 becomes a worldwide pandemic, it’s likely not poor countries or countries with large populations of young people that will be hardest hit.  Rather, those with aging populations and “first world lifestyles” will likely suffer the most.

Study of 72,000 COVID-19 patients finds 2.3% death rate

Stephanie Soucheray | News Reporter | CIDRAP News | Feb 24, 2020

Researchers from China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention today describe the clinical findings on more than 72,000 COVID-19 cases reported in mainland China, which reveal a case-fatality rate (CFR) of 2.3% and suggest most cases are mild, but the disease hits the elderly the hardest.

The study, published in JAMA, is the largest patient-based study on the novel coronavirus, which was first connected to seafood market in Wuhan, China, in December, and has since traversed the globe.

Death rate in critically ill: 49% or higher

A total of 72,314 COVID-19 cases, diagnosed through Feb 11 were used for the study. Of the 72,314 cases, 44,672 were classified as confirmed cases of COVID-19 (62%; diagnosis based on positive throat swab samples), 16,186 as suspected cases (diagnosis based on symptoms and exposures only), 10,567 as clinically diagnosed cases (from Hubei province only, diagnoses based on symptoms, including lung x-ray), and 889 as asymptomatic cases (diagnosis by positive test result but lacking typical symptoms).

“Most cases were diagnosed in Hubei Province (75%) and most reported Wuhan-related exposures (86%; ie, Wuhan resident or visitor or close contact with Wuhan resident or visitor,” the authors said.

Eighty-seven percent of patients were aged 30 to 79 years (38,680 cases). This age-group was the most affected by a wide margin, followed by ages 20 to 29 (3,619 cases, or 8%), those 80 and older (1,408 cases, or 3%), and 1% each in ages less than 10 and 10 to 19 years.

Of the confirmed cases, 1,023 patients—all in critical condition—died from the virus, which results in a CFR of 2.3%. The CFR jumped considerably among older patients, to 14.8% in patients 80 and older, and 8.0% in patients ages 70 to 79. Among the critically ill, the CFR was 49.0%.

A smaller study today based on 52 critically ill patients at a Wuhan hospital confirms this finding. Thirty-two of the 52 critically ill patients (61.5%) died, and older age and acute respiratory distress syndrome were correlated with mortality.

The authors of the smaller study also found that 30 (81%) of 37 patients requiring mechanical ventilation had died by 28 days.

I’m mostly joking when I ask if this is “The Plague” come to life.  Mostly.


  1. gregsneakel says

    “It makes you wonder if there’s something specific about age and resistance to the disease. ”
    That is the most ignorant and stupid thing anyone will read all year.

  2. says

    I heard on one of the news shows that this virus is lethal because some people’s immune systems overreact. If younger people aren’t seriously affected, is it incorrect to assume it causes immune systems to overreact?