Background: Since the emergence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Hubei province of China by the end of 2019, it has burned its way across the globe, resulting in a still fast-growing death toll that far exceeded those from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in less than two months. As there is a paucity of evidence on which population is more likely to progress into severe conditions among cases, we looked into the first cluster of death cases, aiming to add to current evidence and reduce panic among the population.
Methods: We prospectively collected the demographic and clinical data of the first 38 fatalities whose information was made public by the Health Commission of Hubei province and the official Weibo account of China Central Television news center, starting from 9 January through 24 January 2020. The death cases were described from four aspects (gender and age characteristics, underlying diseases, the time course of death, symptoms at the incipience of illness and hospital admission).
Results: Among the 38 fatalities, 71.05% were male, and 28.95% were female, with the median age of 70 years (interquartile range (IQR) = 65-81). Persons aged 66-75 made up the largest share. Twenty-five cases had a history of chronic diseases. The median time between the first symptoms and death was 12.50 days (IQR = 10.00-16.25), while the median time between the admission and death was 8.50 (IQR = 5.00-12.00) days. In persons aged over 56 years, the time between the first symptoms and death decreased with age, and so did the time between the admission and death, though the latter increased again in persons aged over 85 years. The major first symptoms included fever (52.63%), cough (31.58%), dyspnea (23.68%), myalgia and fatigue (15.79%).
Conclusions: Among the death cases, persons with underlying diseases and aged over 65 made up the majority. The time between the first symptoms and death decreased with the advanced age. In all the age groups, males dominated the fatalities.
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