In Italy, as of this writing, the death toll for coronavirus is 2,503, while the death toll in South Korea stands at 84.
Italy’s healthcare system became so overwhelmed to the point doctors and nurses have to make tough decisions on which patients will gain access to intensive care units.
“In South Korea, the rate of testing has been quite high (5,200 tests per million people), and its mortality among those infected quite low (about 0.6%, or 66 deaths, at last count),” CNN reported.
“By contrast, Italy tests about 826 people per million and its mortality among those with diagnosed infection is about 10 times higher, with more than 1,000 people dead from the disease.”
Even though coronavirus testing works to help prevent the spread of the killer virus, it can’t necessarily be linked to fewer deaths and stable healthcare equipment.
Much of South Korea’s success in tackling the situation stems from numerous factors, such as Italy’s high smoking rate for women and high senior population.
CNN continued: “According to a UN report in 2015, 28.6% of the Italian population was 60 years old or older (second in the world after Japan at 33%).
“This compares to South Korea, where 18.5% of the population is at least 60 years of age, ranking 53rd globally. The impact of this disparity is quickly shown in the analysis of coronavirus deaths in each county. In Italy, 90% of the more than 1,000 deaths occur in those 70 or older.”
“Smoking is another factor clearly associated with poor survival. Smoking rates are about the same between the two countries: 24% for Italians and 27% for South Koreans,” CNN continued.
“But gender differences among smokers are widely different: In Italy, 28% of men versus 20% of women smoke, while in Korea, it is about 50% of men and less than 5% (!) of women.
“In other words, South Korea has an outbreak among youngish, non-smoking women, whereas Italy’s disease is occurring among the old and the very old, many of whom are smokers. (We do not know the male-female breakdown of Italy’s cases).”
In addition, South Korea learned the importance of preparedness in 2015 when a South Korean businessman was diagnosed with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) after visiting three Middle Eastern countries.
He received treatment at three South Korean health facilities before the diagnosis but he had already set off a chain of transmission that infected more than 180 people and killed over 30, including hospital staff, patients, and visitors.
Tracing, quarantining and testing almost 17,000 people stopped the outbreak after two months.
Kim Woo-Joo, an infectious disease specialist at Korea University, said: “That experience showed that laboratory testing is essential to control an emerging infectious disease.
“The MERS experience certainly helped us to improve hospital infection prevention and control.”
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