Defining COVID-19 Terms: Case Fatality Rate

May 11, 2020


Elizabeth (Izzy) Montgomery, MPA
Policy Analyst

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In this installment in our series explaining key terms and phrases used by public health officials in discussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the term “case fatality rate.”

Understanding the number of deaths associated with COVID-19 has been a topic discussed by the news media as researchers try to determine the lethality of the virus. Often, the term “case fatality rate” is referenced. Case fatality rate (CFR), as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the proportion of persons with a particular condition such as COVID-19 who die from that condition. CFR is used in epidemiology as a measure of the severity of a disease, with a higher rate indicating potentially worse outcomes for those who become ill.

A lack of sufficient testing across the country for COVID-19 makes it difficult to determine the true CFR. As noted in the definition above, calculating CFR requires knowing the number of people infected with the virus. Without more robust testing efforts, calculating the true CFR for COVID-19 is proving elusive.

See more definitions of terms and other information about the pandemic on our website’s COVID-19 in Arkansas page.

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