Case fatality risk of the first pandemic wave of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in China

Clin Infect Dis. 2020 May 15;ciaa578. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa578. Online ahead of print.


Objective: To assess the case fatality risk (CFR) of COVID-19 in mainland China, stratified by region and clinical category, and estimate key time-to-event intervals.

Methods: We collected individual information and aggregated data on COVID-19 cases from publicly available official sources from December 29, 2019 to April 17, 2020. We accounted for right-censoring to estimate the CFR and explored the risk factors for mortality. We fitted Weibull, gamma, and lognormal distributions to time-to-event data using maximum-likelihood estimation.

Results: We analyzed 82,719 laboratory-confirmed cases reported in mainland China, including 4,632 deaths, and 77,029 discharges. The estimated CFR was 5.65% (95%CI: 5.50%-5.81%) nationally, with highest estimate in Wuhan (7.71%), and lowest in provinces outside Hubei (0.86%). The fatality risk among critical patients was 3.6 times that of all patients, and 0.8-10.3 fold higher than that of mild-to-severe patients. Older age (OR 1.14 per year; 95%CI: 1.11-1.16), and being male (OR 1.83; 95%CI: 1.10-3.04) were risk factors for mortality. The time from symptom onset to first healthcare consultation, time from symptom onset to laboratory confirmation, and time from symptom onset to hospitalization were consistently longer for deceased patients than for those who recovered.

Conclusions: Our CFR estimates based on laboratory-confirmed cases ascertained in mainland China suggest that COVID-19 is more severe than the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic in hospitalized patients, particularly in Wuhan. Our study provides a comprehensive picture of the severity of the first wave of the pandemic in China. Our estimates can help inform models and the global response to COVID-19.

Keywords: China; Novel coronavirus diseases 2019; case fatality risk; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.