Published time: 23 March 2020
Authors: Graziano Onder, Giovanni Rezza, Silvio Brusaferro
Keywords: Covid-19, Italy, case-fatality rate
Only 3 cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were identified in Italy in the first half of February 2020 and all involved people who had recently traveled to China. On February 20, 2020, a severe case of pneumonia due to SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) was diagnosed in northern Italy’s Lombardy region in a man in his 30s who had no history of possible exposure abroad. Within 14 days, many other cases of COVID-19 in the surrounding area were diagnosed, including a substantial number of critically ill patients.1 On the basis of the number of cases and of the advanced stage of the disease it was hypothesized that the virus had been circulating within the population since January.
Another cluster of patients with COVID-19 was simultaneously identified in Veneto, which borders Lombardy. Since then, the number of cases identified in Italy has rapidly increased, mainly in northern Italy, but all regions of the country have reported having patients with COVID-19. After China, Italy now has the second largest number of COVID-19 cases2 and also has a very high case-fatality rate.3 This Viewpoint reviews the Italian experience with COVID-19 with an emphasis on fatalities.
Case-Fatality Rate and Characteristics of Patients Dying in Relation to COVID-19 in Italy