The number of coronavirus patients dying in hospital intensive care units has plunged by roughly one-third since the beginning of the pandemic — a sign that health care workers now better understand the illness, according to a new study.
Researchers reviewed data from thousands of adult COVID-19 patients in ICUs around the world and found that the death rate decreased from 60 percent in March to 40 percent in May, according to the study, published in the journal Anaesthesia.
“As we learn more about this virus and its effect on the critically ill, we become better at treating it and its complications,” Dr. Eric Cioe Pena, director of global health at Northwell Health, told ABC News.
Doctors attributed the promising research — which includes data from 10,150 patients — to the fact that they now know more about how the virus spreads, latches onto its host and causes infection, according to the station.
“I think we are much better off now,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. “We have a better understanding of the pathophysiology of disease, we have better tools to improve patient care and we are more knowledgeable about ventilator management in these patients.”
Along with the use of steroids and anti-viral drugs, which have improved treatment for some patients, advancements in testing have also helped doctors save more lives, he said.
“We are diagnosing people earlier,” said Adalja — adding that ICU death rates may continue to decline as more treatments emerge.
Registered respiratory therapist Niticia Mpanga looks through patient information in the ICU at Oakbend Medical Center in Richmond, Texas.MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Im
He added that “People are getting lower doses of viral inoculants” and are experiencing “lower exposure” largely due to public health strategies implemented to limit the virus’ spread.
The study also found that there was no significant difference in ICU death rates in continents across the world.
“The global sum of knowledge brought to bear on this problem is what has helped to reduce mortality,” said Pena, who warned that treatment needs to be “coupled with good public health measures.”
To come to the conclusion that fewer people are dying in hospitals, the authors analyzed all published studies that looked at ICU deaths for adult patients around the world.
This week, the number of people infected in the US soared past 3.5 million — with spikes in Southern and Western states such as Florida, Texas and California.