Deaths from so-called unknown causes grew 30% in Brazil in the first year of the pandemic. For specialists, this data shows there was an underreporting of Covid-19 deaths. The unknown cases include, for example, those registered at home or in hospital, without assistance or with an unknown cause.
In total, there were 97,436 deaths of this type in the country in 2020, compared to 74,972 in 2019 — an increase of 22,464 cases in one year. According to the consortium of new outlets, this would represent 11.5% of the 194,976 Brazilians killed by Covid last year.
Data from the Ministry of Health's Mortality Information System were compiled by Fatima Marinho, an epidemiologist and senior specialist at Vital Strategies, a global organization made up of experts and researchers working with governments.
Marinho explains that, with the peak of the pandemic, the health department recommended giving a death certificate without a specific cause in cases without any clinical information and history of the disease to release the body and for burial. PCR exams were performed later to determine the cause of death for the death certificate.
According to her, this procedure reinforces Covid-19's underreporting thesis. In a recent study, with data from Belo Horizonte, Salvador, and Natal, Vital Strategies pointed out that 94% of deaths under suspicion of the novel coronavirus were actually linked to the disease. Vital Strategies has also shown that many cases of SARS due to an unknown cause had at least three or more Covid symptoms and should be investigated. Although sought for comment, the Ministry of Health did not respond by the publication of this text.
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon