University of Tokyo develops statistical method for estimating death risks during disease outbreaks
With the method, researchers discovered the death risk associated with the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) epidemic in the Republic of Korea for patients with an illness prior to MERS infection spiked at 48.2 percent for those older than 60, but was lower than 15 percent for younger patients.
Being able to estimate such death risks is vital so that health officials can put proper health intervention protocols in place. Risk factors such as age, gender, occupation and health conditions must be considered to make accurate estimates.
Research and development of the new method has been done by associate professor Hiroshi Nishiura and his research group at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Medicine. The team has developed a new statistical method which the group applied in real time during the 2015 MERS epidemic.
"All of my team members spent many sleepless nights during the several months of the MERS outbreak developing our new model," Nishiura said.
The team found a number of marked similarities with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which spread throughout China and Hong Kong in 2002 and 2003.
"The elderly and the ill had higher death risks, and the overall percentage of death due to MERS and SARS was around 20 percent," Nishiura said. "We think that the transmission dynamics and severity of SARS and MERS are similar in many ways."