- As of Monday, 463 out of 9,172 people infected with coronavirus in Italy have died. It has a national death rate that is higher than the global average.
- The new figures make the country home to the largest number of infections outside China.
- Experts estimate that Italy’s aging population may correlate to the deadly nature of the disease within its borders.
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Italy has one of the oldest populations in the world, with a median age of about 46 years old. Nearly 60% of the population is aged 40 and over, about 23% of which is over 65 – heightening the population’s risk with regards to the novel coronavirus currently spreading through Italy.
As of Monday, over 9,000 people in Italy had contracted the COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus, and more than 463 others have died. The new figures make the country home to the largest number of infections outside China, the epicenter of the epidemic.
According to Italy’s national health institute, the average age of those who have died was 81, and many of the deceased had preexisting health conditions. Only one in five coronavirus patients is between 19 and 50 years old, making the older population significantly more impacted by the virus in Italy.
Monday’s numbers also confirm that the death rate in Italy is higher than it is in other parts of the world. Four-hundred sixty-three out of 9,172 people infected with the virus in Italy have died thus far, equaling a death rate of about 5%. In contrast, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said the global death rate is only 3.4%.
One possible factor for this disparity is that the mortality rate of COVID-19 is significantly higher among the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
“If we break it down by age group, our death rates are similar, or even lower, than those reported in China,” Giovanni Rezza, the chief epidemiologist at Italy’s national health institute, said according to The Wall Street Journal. “For better or for worse, we have a very old population.”
Another factor is testing. Experts say that as more are tested, however, the death rate is likely to decrease, and Italy has only tested around 54,000 people for the novel coronavirus.
The elderly and those with preexisting conditions are higher risk patients
A study conducted last month from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the virus most seriously affected older people with preexisting health problems, which suggests a person’s chances of dying from the disease increase with age.
Notably, the research showed that patients ages 10 to 19 had the same chance of dying from COVID-19 as patients in their 20s and 30s, but the disease appeared to be much more fatal in people ages 50 and over.
“The elderly with previous pathologies are notoriously numerous here,” Massimo Galli, the director of infectious diseases at Sacco hospital in Milan, told The Guardian. “I think this could explain why we are seeing more serious cases of coronavirus here, which I repeat, in the vast majority of cases start mildly and cause few problems, especially in young people and certainly in children.”
Italy has put new measures into place in order to mitigate the spread of the virus – which has infected over 110,000 people globally – including placing the entire country on lockdown and shutting schools, museums, and other public places.
Elderly people throughout the country are stepping up precautions as the virus spreads disproportionately to the elderly, including Pope Francis who is 83. Last week, The Pope canceled public engagements because of a cold, though he ultimately tested negative for coronavirus.
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