Coronavirus Death Rate: 2%* Currently

With no cure to offer, China’s top health body has advised hospitals to use a range of treatments – including traditional Chinese medicine and “artificial lungs” – to tackle a deadly coronavirus.

In guidelines published on Thursday afternoon, the National Health Commission advised that suspected cases be isolated.

“Confirmed cases can be put in the same ward. Critical patients need to be put into intensive care as soon as possible,” the commission said.

Coronavirus Death Rate: 2%* *very early estimate

The novel coronavirus’ case fatality rate (CFR) is currently estimated at around 2%, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, January 29, 2020[1][2].

However, the WHO specified that this is a very early and provisional estimate that may change. Surveillance is increasing, within China but also globally, but at the moment:

  1. We don’t know how many were infected (“When you look at how many people have died, you need to look at how many people where infected, and right now we don’t know that number. So it is early to put a percentage on that.”[1][2]).
  2. The only number currently known is how many people have died out of those who have been reported to the WHO.
  3. It is therefore very early to make any conclusive statements about what the overall mortality rate will be for the novel coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization [1][2].

A prior estimate [3] had put that number at 3%, between 2% and 4%.

Fatality rate can change as a virus can mutate, according to epidemiologists.

Once the province Hubei (where the epicenter Wuhan is situated) is removed from the calculation, the national (China) mortality rate drops to 0.3%. Within the Hubei province, the mortality rate is about 1% when excluding the city of Wuhan (where it is 5.5%).

Comparison with other viruses

For comparison, the case fatality rate with seasonal flu is less than 0.01% (1 death per every 10,000 cases)[4].

Mortality rate for SARS was 10%, and for MERS 34%.


  1. Update on the situation regarding the new coronavirus [transcript] – World Health Organization (WHO), January 29, 2020
  2. WHO: “Live from Geneva on the new #coronavirus outbreak” [audio]
  3. A novel coronavirus outbreak of global health concern – Chen Want et al. The Lancet. January 24, 2020
  4. Case fatality risk of influenza A(H1N1pdm09): a systematic review – Epidemiology. Nov. 24, 2013


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