Health Editor’s Note: And just when you thought the COVID-19 news could not get worse….Carol
Initial COVID-19 infection rate may be 80 times greater than originally reported
by Jordan Ford/Penn State News
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Many epidemiologists believe that the initial COVID-19 infection rate was undercounted due to testing issues, asymptomatic and alternatively symptomatic individuals, and a failure to identify early cases.
Now, a new study from Penn State estimates that the number of early COVID-19 cases in the U.S. may have been more than 80 times greater and doubled nearly twice as fast as originally believed.
In a paper published today (June 22) in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers estimated the detection rate of symptomatic COVID-19 cases using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza-like illnesses (ILI) surveillance data over a three week period in March 2020.
“We analyzed each state’s ILI cases to estimate the number that could not be attributed to influenza and were in excess of seasonal baseline levels,” said Justin Silverman, assistant professor in Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology and Department of Medicine. “When you subtract these out, you’re left with what we’re calling excess ILI – cases that can’t be explained by either influenza or the typical seasonal variation of respiratory pathogens.”
The researchers found that the excess ILI showed a nearly perfect correlation with the spread of COVID-19 around the country.