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Scientists think 1 in 5 people globally could develop severe coronavirus cases

Published Jun 16th, 2020 2:36PM EDT
Coronavirus cases
Image: Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

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  • As coronavirus cases around the world continue to spike, researchers have published a new set of findings that purport to offer revealing new insight about who’s most at risk from the COVID-19 virus.
  • This research shows that 1 in 5 people worldwide are at risk of suffering from a severe case of the coronavirus should they contract it.
  • That number equates to around 20% of the global population.

If there’s anyone out there still dubious about the COVID-19 coronavirus or who’s still not convinced it’s serious (despite much of the world pretty much coming to a halt in a desperate bid to fight the virus), perhaps this will change your mind.

A team of international scientists has released new research in The Lancet medical journal quantifying the number of people most at risk for developing the worst or even fatal symptoms of the coronavirus in the absence of a vaccine. In short, this team of researchers from the US, UK, and China has determined that some 1.7 billion — or a little more than 20% of the global population, equating to about 1 in 5 people — are at an elevated risk of experiencing the worst symptoms associated with the virus.

“About one in five individuals worldwide could be at increased risk of severe Covid-19, should they become infected, due to underlying health conditions, but this risk varies considerably by age,” the report’s authors said, per CNBC.

In the report, people were labeled as potentially at increased risk if they have at least one underlying condition such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or cardiovascular disease. Those conditions stem from research derived from public health officials in the US and the UK, in addition to the World Health Organization.

In North America, some 28% of the population (104 million people) fall into this most at-risk bucket. They span pretty much all age groups and have at least one of those underlying conditions that could exacerbate the coronavirus’ effect on them should they contract the virus. The most at-risk region in the world, the study goes on to note, is Europe, where around 31% of the population is classified as being at an elevated risk for a severe coronavirus case.

We should note that this is distinguished from the portion of the world’s population the report classifies as being at a “high risk” of developing the worst coronavirus cases. Those people — who number around 349 million, or some 4% of the world’s population — are the ones who’d likely require hospitalization if they contract the virus. What’s worse, these people might not even have any underlying health conditions at all.

Old age seems to be a factor here, and men are also found to be at higher risk.

These new insights come as researchers are continuing to race to develop an effective vaccine to fight the virus, with some promising new results finding that 90% of volunteers in one coronavirus vaccine study were able to develop antibodies to protect them from the virus.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.