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Brazil may have more than 1.6 million cases of covid-19, study points out

Publicado em 08 maio 2020

Calculation of Brazilian scientists places the country as the new epicenter of the coronavirus in the world, ahead of the USA. Number is 12 times higher than the official count, which suffers from underreporting. A study by Brazilian scientists points out that the actual number of cases of coronavirus may be more than 1.6 million. The number is much higher than the count of the Ministry of Health, which has identified 135 thousand cases until this Thursday (07/05).

The study data were published this week on the Covid-19 Brazil portal and released this Thursday by Agência Fapesp. According to the study, the state of São Paulo may have concentrated until May 4, at least 526 thousand cases. The data suggest that Brazil may be the new epicenter of the disease in the world, surpassing the USA, a country that officially adds more cases, with 1.25 million records of covid-19.

Until Tuesday, Brazil had performed only 1,597 tests per million inhabitants. The United States, for example, conducted 22,591 tests per million people, according to data company Statista.

“It is known that there is a great underreporting of cases throughout Brazil, since only serious cases are being tested, of those who go to hospitals. But how much is this distortion of reality? The motivation of this study is, in some way, contribute to the planning of the epidemic, because with this tremendous underreporting we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg “, says Domingos Alves, a member of the COVID-19 Brasil group, formed by scientists from more than ten Brazilian universities to monitor the pandemic.

The researcher, who also acts as coordinator of the Health Intelligence Laboratory (LIS) of the Ribeirão Preto Medical School, linked to the University of São Paulo (USP), also points out that a more realistic estimate of the number of coronavirus cases in the country it would allow governments and the population to have greater capacity to plan measures to combat the pandemic.

“In order to have a real sense of the dimension, the ideal would be mass testing. As we do not have tests available for everyone, the estimates can serve as a basis for the management of containment measures, the need for new beds and the opening of field hospitals” , says Alves.

To reach the number higher than the official record, the researchers based themselves on epidemiological data from South Korea and adjusted factors such as age pyramid, percentage of comorbidities and risk factors for covid-19 in the Brazilian population.

“Apparently, the number of deaths is a predictor for the number of cases. It is already known that the lethality rate in different countries is more or less fixed: 5.8% of the total cases”, he says.

Alves also pointed out that there is also a great underreporting of death cases. “There is a discrepancy. In the midst of an epidemic, people die with symptoms of COVID-19, but they remain suspicious cases, as they have not been and will not be tested. In many cities it is already happening that people die at home, without receiving any assistance. It is the underreporting of deaths. We work based only on confirmed deaths “, he adds.

As there is underreporting even in relation to deaths, the researcher warns that reality must be even more serious than the study’s estimate. “It is very possible that it is 20 times worse than the official data is showing”, he concludes.

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