Infectious Disease

According to the CDC, COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in 2020

March 31, 2021

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COVID-19 accounted for an estimated 11.3% of deaths in the US in 2020, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer, according to preliminary data published in MMWR.

Farida B. Ahmad, MPH, A researcher at the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC and colleagues reported that certain populations had higher all-cause mortality rates from COVID-19, including adults aged 85 or over (1,797.8 deaths per 100,000 population) and older. Adjusted mortality rate for men compared to women (115 vs. 72.5 deaths per 100,000 population). Deaths associated with COVID-19 also varied by race and ethnicity: the highest death rates were among Native American and Alaskan Indians (187.8 deaths per 100,000 people) and Hispanic populations (164.3 deaths per 100,000 people).

Source: CDC

Overall, the country’s age-adjusted death rate rose 15.9% in 2020 from 2019, the first increase since 2017, according to the CDC. The report showed that COVID-19 was the underlying or contributory cause of death for 345,323 people in 2020.

In another report that evaluated death certificates from 2020, data showed that 378,048 death certificates reported to the CDC as of February 22, 2021 listed the ICD-10 code for COVID-19.

Concerns have previously been raised about whether some deaths have been misleadingly classified as COVID-19, but the CDC’s assessment of the data does not support these concerns Adi V. Gundlapalli, MD, PhD, Chief Public Health Informatics Officer of the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services and a member of the CDC COVID-19 Response Team and colleagues.

Among the death certificates that contained the COVID-19 code, 357,133 (94.5%) listed at least one other ICD-10 code. Of these, 97.3% had “a concurrent diagnosis that was a plausible state of the chain of events (e.g. pneumonia or respiratory failure), a significantly contributing condition (e.g. high blood pressure or diabetes), or both,” Gundlapalli said and colleagues wrote in the report.

The data showed that Part I of the ICD-10 diagnostic code lists 330,198 death certificates of COVID-19. Of these, the most frequent chain of events diagnoses were pneumonia (45%) and acute respiratory failure (20%), and the most common significant causes were essential hypertension (18%) and diabetes (10%). Gundlapalli and colleagues wrote that these conditions “were consistent with those reported in clinical and epidemiological studies to occur in patients with severe COVID-19-associated outcomes”.

For the remaining 5.5% of death certificates that list COVID-19 without any other conditions, the report states, “The association of death with COVID-19 could not be assessed … and provides an opportunity for improvement Documentation.”

“These results support the accuracy of COVID-19 mortality monitoring in the US using official death certificates,” the researchers wrote.

References:

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