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Longitudinal variability in mortality predicts Covid-19 deaths

By Jon O. Lundberg, Hugo Zeberg

Posted 30 Dec 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.25.20248853

Within Europe, death rates due to covid-19 vary greatly, with some countries being hardly hit while others to date are almost unaffected. It would be of interest to pinpoint the factors that determine a countrys susceptibility to a pandemic such as covid-19. Here we present data demonstrating that mortality due to covid-19 in a given country could have been largely predicted even before the pandemic hit Europe, simply by looking at longitudinal variability of all-cause mortality rates in the years preceding the current outbreak. The variability in death rates during the influenza seasons of 2015-2019 correlate to excess mortality caused by covid-19 in 2020 (R2=0.48, p<0.0001). In contrast, we found no correlation between such excess mortality and age, population density, degree of urbanization, latitude, GNP, governmental health spendings or rates of influenza vaccinations. These data may be of some relevance when discussing the effectiveness of acute measures in order to limit the spread of the disease and ultimately deaths. They suggest that in some European countries there is an intrinsic susceptibility to fatal respiratory viral disease including covid-19; a susceptibility that was evident long before the arrival of the current pandemic.

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