Mexico’s real coronavirus case tally could be more than 7 million, according to an infectious disease specialist, a figure more than 17 times higher than the current count of confirmed cases.
A total of 408,449 people have tested positive in Mexico as of Wednesday while there have been 45,361 confirmed Covid-19 deaths. Those figures yield a fatality rate of 11.1 per 100 cases, meaning that one in every nine people diagnosed with Covid-19 dies.
The global rate is 3.9 based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University that shows that more than 17.1 million people around the world have tested positive for Covid-19 and almost 670,000 people have died.
But Amesh A. Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, United States, told the news agency Bloomberg that a fair estimate of the real fatality rate would be 0.6 considering that many cases go undetected.
If that rate is applied to Mexico’s official Covid-19 death numbers, total case numbers here would total about 7.1 million.
Mexico’s testing rate is certainly low – only 7,286 tests per 1 million inhabitants had been performed by Wednesday, according to the statistics portal Statista – meaning that large numbers of cases, especially mild and asymptomatic ones, go undetected.
But the assumption that the fatality rate here is on par with the world as a whole is likely flawed.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, the government’s coronavirus point man, has said on innumerable occasions that Mexico’s death toll is as high as it is because of the high prevalence of health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity, all of which can cause complications for coronavirus patients.
The government concedes that many cases go undetected but would likely argue that the real case numbers are not as high as Adalja suggests.
Early in the pandemic, the Health Ministry estimated that there were about eight undetected cases for every confirmed one. If the same estimation was applied now, total cases in Mexico would be about 3.7 million and the fatality rate would be 1.2 per 100 cases, double Adalja’s global estimate.
Given that Mexico does indeed have a very high prevalence of diseases such as diabetes, and that coronavirus patients with that condition are much more likely to die, a 1.2 fatality rate, and by extension a case tally of 3.7 million, seems more credible.
In any case, the case numbers are undoubtedly much higher than those reported, and according to Adalja, Mexico’s coronavirus outbreak “is out of control.”
“If you’re not testing, tracing, isolating, you’re going to have chains of transmission that land on vulnerable people and you’re going to have high hospitalizations and deaths,” he said.
While coronavirus cases are almost certainly being drastically undercounted, the same can be said about Covid-19 deaths.
An analysis presented by health authorities last weekend that looked at deaths in 20 states between March 15 and June 27 found that fatalities were 55% higher than in previous years.
Excess deaths in the 20 states totaled 71,315 but only 22,400 were classified as being caused by Covid-19.
Many of the other excess deaths can likely be attributed to people delaying treatment for a range of medical problems due to fear they could be exposed to coronavirus as well as overburdened hospitals but it is probable that more than just 22,400 were caused by Covid-19.
Another new study found that that deaths among Mexico City residents between April 19 and June 30 were 161% above their normal level, providing more evidence that Mexico has been grossly underestimating its Covid-19 death toll.
Source: Bloomberg (en)