By Masato Ide
“Excess death” confirmed in survey of influenza and pneumonia in Tokyo’s 23 wards
Amidst the great confusion over the new coronavirus outbreak, it has even become difficult to grasp the number of deaths due to infection.
There have been numerous cases that make it difficult to accurately count the number of deaths by cause of death: Cases of people living alone who died at home, and which the police handled as accidental deaths, only to be later identified as cases of infection (source: Tokyo Shimbun); cases of people who tested positive in a PCR test but were regarded as mild cases and whose condition worsened while convalescing at home and died (source: FNN Prime online). There are also cases where pathologists who were to conduct autopsies on bodies of persons who were suspected of being infected asked the public health center for a PCR test but were refused (source: Japanese Society for Forensic Pathology, LITERA).
Surely, some people who died of the coronavirus infection with its characteristic severe pneumonia-like symptoms had been diagnosed with “pneumonia,” not “new coronavirus infection.” In fact, a graph in the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) “report on influenza and pneumonia deaths” shows that there were clearly “excess deaths”(*) in Tokyo’s 23 wards during the height of the outbreak [graph 1]. It suggests that some deaths due to the coronavirus may have been mistakenly diagnosed as pneumonia.
(*) Estimated value that shows the increase in number of deaths from influenza or pneumonia due to an influenza outbreak. The value shows the number of deaths directly or indirectly due to influenza. This value is the number of deaths which would have been avoided by vaccination if the influenza vaccine were 100% effective. (NIID)
Inexplicable citation of blog post was spread by people opposed to expansion of PCR tests
Recently, there is questionable information being circulated regarding “excess death.” The notion that “excess deaths have not increased” was posted on a blog (below) and thereafter circulated among people opposed to expansion of PCR tests.
“Are PCR tests really necessary?” Jun Sasaki, Yushokai Medical Corporation (archive of post)
In this post, there is a graph of the total number of deaths in 21 large cities, not just in Tokyo, taken from the NIID site [graph 2]. The selection of this graph was very contrived. The NIID survey results for the “total of 21 large cities” is still very incomplete, and vastly underestimates the number of recent deaths.
Among the “21 large cities,” NIID results for Yokohama and Osaka do not include weeks 10 to 14 of the year 2020 [graph 3]. The NIID site reports no results for Sapporo, currently experiencing a “second wave” of infection far greater than the “first wave.” It goes without saying that a graph of the “21 large cities” calculated from incomplete results considerably underestimates the number of recent deaths.
The blog post above, “Are PCR tests really necessary?” inexplicably does not mention this serious problem of underestimation.
BuzzFeed Japan also introduced this blog
Naoko Iwanaga, a BuzzFeed Japan editor and former Yomiuri Shimbun reporter who writes on health care for BuzzFeed, has recently written an article that cites this blog, which can only be said to cite inaccurate data. Iwanaga’s article has no explanatory notes.
I sent Naoko Iwanaga several Twitter messages to inform her of my opinion, but I’ve received no reply. In August 2019, Iwanaga was interviewed for an article titled “A calm, fact-based discussion is needed when discussing lives.” Iwanaga now seems to have forgotten her ideals.
It is unfortunate but also a natural consequence of one’s actions that editors and writers lose credibility over such unprofessional actions.