This Online Calculator Shows How Likely a Person Is to Die During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Scientists in the U.K. have created an online calculator that predicts a person's risk of dying of during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The calculator, named OurRisk.CoV, shows how a person's age, sex, and underlying health conditions—such as diabetes, severe obesity, as well as heart, kidney and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases—affect their chances of dying in different COVID-19 scenarios over a one year period in England.

OurRisk.CoV is part of a wider study estimating excess deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with those findings published in the journal The Lancet. The researchers forecast that in the first year of the pandemic, between 37,000 and 73,000 more people in the U.K. could die than would normally, on average. The result depends on how lockdown restrictions are relaxed, according to the researchers.

Its creators, from University College London (UCL), UCL Hospitals NHS Trust, the University of Cambridge and Health Data Research U.K., drew on data including the electronic health records of over 3.8 million people in England. They noted how many people aged 30 or over registered with a doctor's office between 1997 and 2017 had underlying health conditions.

This revealed 20 percent of people have an underlying condition that puts them at risk of developing COVID-19 complications. The team calculated the risk of excess deaths in England based on the country having a 10 percent infection rate. They factored in the risk of dying from the virus itself, as well as its strain on the health system.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of a person with one underlying health condition was 3.5 percent versus those without, at 0.6 percent. That rose to 7.5 percent in those with more than two underlying conditions.

"Our calculator provides one year mortality risks for common conditions by age and sex," Dr. Amitava Banerjee, from the UCL Institute of Health Informatics who lead the study, said in a statement.

"For example, we show how a 66-year-old man with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has a 6 percent risk of dying over the next year and there are 25,000 'patients like me' (i.e. men of the same age with the same condition) in England. The calculator estimates 164 excess COVID-related deaths on top of the expected 1,639 deaths over a year in patients in a similar situation.

"Before the pandemic neither doctors, nor patients have been used to seeing such information, but in the current emergency there is an urgent need to develop better understanding of who is at risk based on reliable health data. What we offer is a prototype, a beta version that we and others can develop further."

Sarah Harper, professor of gerontology at the University of Oxford, U.K., who did not work on the paper, commented on the findings. "The association between population risk and individual risk is complex, but a transparent public health approach enabling people to understand the evidence behind government messages would be welcomed by many," she said in a statement.

"This is an important paper which shows the complexity of mortality risk factors and how age, sex and underlying health conditions combine under different conditions to increase risk." However, she also said the "blanket and arbitrary use of age" was questionable.

Rowland Kao, professor of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh, U.K., who also did not work on the study, said the paper was useful as it puts "the impact of COVID-19 in the context of other conditions and co-morbidities."

However Kao also said the researchers could have done more to explore the impact of deprivation. "An important caveat to interpreting these figures is in understanding the role of deprivation," he said. "It is now well known that deprivation plays a critical role in determining the impact of COVID-19 on the population. In part this study considers deprivation related factors, due to relationships between deprivation and health.

"However, what is unclear is the role that deprivation plays in transmission of the virus; for example due to higher levels of contact in low income housing, or imperfect distancing that may occur in many lower paid jobs. Understanding those impacts will be a critical factor in understanding how relative risks impact different sectors of society, impacts that would be better understood with analyses that also consider questions of long term immunity, community structure and transmission that are beyond the scope of this study."

Since the pandemic started late last year, more than 4.3 million people are known to have been infected by the coronavirus, 297,232 have died, and over 1.5 million have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University.

This article has been updated with comments from professor Rowland Kao and professor Sarah Harper.

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Clinical staff wears personal protective equipment (PPE) as she cares for a patient at the Intensive Care unit at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, on May 5, 2020. NEIL HALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images