A team of scientists in the UK have developed an online calculator that can predict a person’s risk of dying from coronavirus. Picture: Supplied
A team of scientists in the UK have developed an online calculator that can predict a person’s risk of dying from coronavirus. Picture: Supplied

This calculator predicts if you will die from COVID-19

A team of scientists in the UK have developed an online calculator that can predict a person's risk of dying from coronavirus.

Created by researchers at University College London (UCL), the online tool predicts a one-year mortality rate based on factors such as age, sex and underlying illnesses, also taking into account the risk of infection and indirect elements like strain on the National Health Service.

For the tool, researchers used data from around 3.8 million health records and based its conclusions on England having a 10 per cent infection rate and 20 per cent of people having a high-risk condition.

Lead author Dr Amitava Banerjee said older people, particularly those with one or more underlying conditions, were asking what easing lockdown measures could mean for their health.

"For example, we show how a 66-year-old man with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has 6 per cent risk of dying over the next year and there are 25,000 'patients like me' (ie men of the same age with the same condition) in England.

"The calculator estimates 164 excess COVID-19-related deaths on top of the expected 1639 deaths over a year in patients in a similar situation.

"Our findings show the mortality risk for these vulnerable groups increases significantly and could lead to thousands of avoidable deaths."

So how does the calculator work? The tool takes into account your age, sex and any underlying health conditions you may have - and then assesses the impact of these factors on coronavirus mortality under different scenarios.

Using a mortality impact of 1.5 per cent, users then enter the level of suppression measures being used in their region (which ranges from full suppression of the virus to "do nothing"); their sex; their age bracket; and select any underlying conditions they may have.

The tool then calculates the observed one-year all-cause mortality - which is the number of people with similar characteristics in England who would have died pre-coronavirus due to other causes.

It also calculates the excess mortality under the COVID-19 emergency - that is, the additional deaths among the group of people as a result of coronavirus.

"In the current emergency there is an urgent need to develop better understanding of who is at risk based on reliable health data," Dr Banerjee said.

Oxford University's Professor Sarah Harper told The Sun the study was important because it demonstrates "the complexity of mortality risk factors and how age, sex and underlying health conditions combine under different conditions to increase risk".

"It highlights the difference between men and women, and the importance of identifying underlying health conditions," Prof Harper said.

"Importantly, the authors suggest that this enables a publicly available tool for individuals to use to develop better understanding of who is at risk based on reliable health data."

Made public in a report in The Lancet, the calculator - "the first to give doctors, health experts and the public a personalised risk from COVID" - is part of a wider study that warns lifting the lockdown in the UK too quickly could lead to as many as 73,000 excess deaths within the next 12 months.

 

Boris Johnson poses with get well cards sent when he was sick.
Boris Johnson poses with get well cards sent when he was sick.

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the loosening of lockdown restrictions on Monday - but faced backlash from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who all said they would not be dropping the "Stay at Home" messaging.

"On our current path we seem destined for a disastrous ending," Scottish Government adviser and professor of global public health at Edinburgh University Devi Sridhar wrote for The Guardian.

"Lifting lockdown without the public health infrastructure in place to contain the virus will allow COVID-19 to spread through the population unchecked. The result could be a Darwinian culling of the elderly and vulnerable, and an individual gamble for those exposed to the virus. This should be avoided at all costs."

The UK currently has the second-highest number of virus-caused deaths in the world after the United States - close to 40,500.

Another of the study's authors, UCL Professor Harry Hemingway, said that to keep vulnerable people safe during the pandemic, the infection rate must be kept down.

"Vaccines and drugs will take time to develop and evaluate. What works right now is two things. Firstly keeping the population infection rate as low as possible, and avoiding infection in the people at the highest risk," he said.

"Secondly we need to continue to deliver high-quality medical care to vulnerable people to prevent excess deaths in those who are not infected with coronavirus".



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