The United States is leading the world with 2.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases, however, a new study suggests the true number of infections may be millions more.
As many as 8.7 million Americans could have fallen ill with coronavirus in March when cases first surged and there was widespread shortages of test kits, research published by the Science Translational Medicine journal reveals.
This would mean that 80 per cent of cases in March would have gone undiagnosed and the true scale of the coronavirus pandemic in the US has been grossly underestimated.
In March only 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US were reported.
However researchers from US universities have analysed the number of people that presented to GPs or medical centres across the country with flu-like symptoms but were never tested for COVID-19.
They used figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which collects data from each state on the number of flu cases each winter season.
“The findings support a scenario where more than 8.7 million new SARS-CoV-2 infections appeared in the US during March and estimate that more than 80 per cent of these cases remained unidentified as the outbreak rapidly spread,” the report stated, according to CNN.
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According to the research there was a “clear, anomalous surge in influenza-like illness” which peaked around March 15, the same time many large states like New York began reporting coronavirus outbreaks.
“The surge of non-influenza ILI (influenza-like illness) outpatients was much larger than the number of confirmed cases in each state, providing evidence of large numbers of probable symptomatic COVID-19 cases that remained undetected,” the report said.
Analysing the data with each state‘s population and taking into account that not everyone would have gone to the doctors despite having symptoms, the research concluded that the numbers reported by the CDC was probably only a third of the true amount of cases.
“If 1/3 of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the US sought care, this ILI (influenza-like illness) surge would have corresponded to more than 8.7 million new SARS-CoV-2 infections across the US during the three-week period from March 8 to March 28, 2020,” the research concluded.
YOUNG PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR NEW INFECTIONS: CDC
According to official figures the United States accounts for 20 per cent of all coronavirus cases – with one age group in particular at fault.
Officials are now saying it’s young people who ignore social distancing measures that are testing positive in the country‘s south and west.
“With younger age of recent infections in at least some places such as Florida, expect a lower death rate in this wave … until the 20-40 year olds who are infected today go on to infect others,” former director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr Tom Frieden, wrote on Twitter.
The United States‘ leading infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci has also warned of the danger young people pose.
“They get infected first, then they come home, and then they infect the older people. The older people get the complications, and then they go to the hospital,” Dr Fauci said.
“The death rate always lags several weeks behind the infection rate.”
Originally published as Staggering true US virus numbers