Analysis: How accurate are China’s COVID-19 death numbers? – Reuters

by | Dec 22, 2022 | COVID-19

Dec 22 (Reuters) – China’s narrow criteria for identifying deaths caused by COVID-19 will underestimate the true toll of the pandemic’s current wave there and could make it harder to communicate the best ways for people to protect themselves, foreign health experts warn.Only deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure after contracting COVID will be classified as having been caused by the coronavirus, a leading Chinese medical expert said on Tuesday.Deaths from complications at other sites in the body, including underlying conditions made worse by the virus, would be excluded from the official toll, said Wang Guiqiang, head of the infectious disease department at Peking University First Hospital.Experts familiar with hospital protocols in China told Reuters that such cases were not always excluded previously, though sometimes COVID would be ruled out as a cause of death if a formerly positive patient had tested negative a day or two before dying.Wang said the criteria had changed because the Omicron variant is less likely to cause other life-threatening symptoms, though China’s hospitals are still required to judge each case to ascertain precisely whether or not COVID was the ultimate cause.The methods for counting COVID deaths have varied across countries in the nearly three years since the pandemic began.Yet disease experts outside of China say this specific approach would miss several other widely recognised types of potentially fatal COVID complications, from blood clots to heart attacks as well as sepsis and kidney failure.Some of these complications can increase the chances of death at home, particularly for people who are not aware that they should seek care for these symptoms.The new definition “clearly won’t capture all deaths from COVID,” said Dr. Aaron Glatt, an infectious diseases expert at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in New York and a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “To say you’re going to ignore anything else going on in the body makes no sense and is scientifically inaccurate.”Last month, Korean researchers reported that 33% of Omicron-related deaths between July 2021 and March 2022 at one large hospital were due to causes other than pneumonia.CAN CHINA’S …

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