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Early misdiagnoses imply larger COVID-19 death toll

From mid-March to mid-April, Australia recorded an above average number of pneumonia deaths, despite historically low cases of flu.

Deakin University chair in epidemiology Professor Catherine Bennett told Deborah Knight there’s a significant chance some of those cases were misdiagnosed.

She said there’s evidence to suggest Australia’s confidence in capturing every COVID-19 infection may have been misplaced.

“The data actually tells a slightly different story.

“It’s possible that in the very early days … we might’ve actually had deaths that were potentially due to COVID, but that would’ve just been diagnosed as pneumonia, and the people not tested.”

Professor Bennett said there was potentially much more transmission in March and April than first thought – up to 80 cases for each pneumonia death.

“That was always my concern, as an epidemiologist.

“There was always this sense that we weren’t measuring the community transmission. It could’ve been sort of similar to what we’re seeing in Melbourne now.”

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