Middle-aged people, and not just the elderly, have a dramatically higher risk of dying or developing serious illness from the coronavirus, new research from Britain has found.
The findings came in a comprehensive analysis of virus cases in mainland China.
Researchers from Britain analyzed more than 3,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, as well as data from hundreds of passengers repatriated from the outbreak city of Wuhan.
They discovered that age is a key determining factor in serious infections, with nearly one in five over-80s requiring hospitalization, compared to around one percent among people under 30.
The study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal, found that 4% of infected people in their forties required hospitalization and double that number of people in their fifties.
Taking into account estimates of the number of cases that may not have been clinically confirmed — that is, mild or asymptomatic infections — the data showed that the hospitalization rate of patients in their fifties was 8.2%.
It estimated that the mortality rate from confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China was 1.38%. If unconfirmed cases are taken into account, the death rate dropped to 0.66%.
The authors of the research said that while this was significantly lower than previous estimates, COVID-19 is still several times deadlier than previous pandemic viruses, such as H1N1.
“Our estimates can be applied to any country to inform decisions around the best containment policies for COVID-19,” said Azra Ghani, a study co-author from Imperial College London.