• The World Health Organization on Tuesday confirmed that the global death rate for coronavirus is 3.4% — higher than earlier estimates of about 2%
  • In contrast, the seasonal flu kills 0.1% of those infected. 
  • A patient’s risk of death from COVID-19 varies depending on their age and any pre-existing health conditions they might have.
  • Experts have predicted that the fatality rate of COVID-19 could decrease as the number of confirmed cases  rises.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The World Health Organization confirmed on Tuesday that the global death rate for the novel coronavirus is 3.4% — higher than earlier estimates of about 2%. 

The coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, has killed more than 3,100 people and infected nearly 93,000 as of Tuesday. The virus causes a disease known as COVID-19.

Speaking at a media briefing, Director-General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. In contrast, the seasonal flu kills far less than 1% of those infected. 

The mortality rate of coronavirus will also likely change as more cases are confirmed, and experts predict the percentage of deaths will decrease as the number of confirmed cases continues to rise.

“There’s another whole cohort that is either asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a briefing last month. “We’re going to see a diminution in the overall death rate.”

‘It is a unique virus with unique characteristics’

Tedros noted differences between the coronavirus and other infectious diseases, like MERS, SARS, and influenza. He said that data suggests COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as the flu and that people who are infected but not yet sick with the flu are major transmitters of the disease, which does not appear to be the case as much for coronavirus. 

He added that COVID-19 causes a “more severe disease” than the seasonal flu, and explained that while people around the world may have built up an immunity to the flu over time, the novelty of the coronavirus means no one yet has immunity, and more people are susceptible to infection. 

“It is a unique virus with unique characteristics,” he said. 

Tedros said last week that the mortality rate of the disease can differ based on the place wehre a patient is diagnosed and treated. He added that people with mild cases of the disease recover in about two weeks, but those with severe cases may take three to six weeks to recover. 

Older patients face the highest risk 


A man wears a mask to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus as he walks near the Grand Palace at Bangkok, Thailand February 2, 2020.

Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

A patient’s risk of dying from COVID-19 varies based on several factors, including where they are treated, their age, and any pre-existing health conditions they might have.

Coronavirus cases have been reported in at least 76 countries, with a vast majority in China. 

study conducted last month from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the virus most seriously affected older people with preexisting health problems. The data suggests a person’s chances of dying from the disease increase with age. 

covid 19 mortality rate by age chart

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Notably, the research showed that patients ages 10-19 had the same chance of dying from COVID-19 as patients in their 20s and 30s, but the disease appeared to be much more fatal in people ages 50 and over. 

About 80% of coronavirus cases are mild, the research showed, and experts think many mild cases haven’t been reported because some people aren’t going to the doctor or hospitals for treatment. 

Here’s how the coronavirus compares with a handful of other major outbreaks.

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