Cause of death

Cause of death, meaning the underlying cause of death, is (a) the disease or disorder that initiates the causal chain of diseases or disorders leading directly to death (natural cause of death); (b) the circumstances of the accident or violence causing the injury that initiated the causal chain of morbid events leading directly to death (external cause of death). The causes of death are coded according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health (ICD10, 10th revision) of the World Health Organization (WHO).
New ICD-10 codes were issued for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

COVID-19 - Classification and coding according to WHO guidelines

New ICD-10 codes for COVID-19:

• U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified
• U07.2 COVID-19, virus not identified
• Clinically-epidemiologically diagnosed COVID-19
• Probable COVID-19
• Suspected COVID-19

Although both categories, U07.1 (COVID-19, virus identified) and U07.2 (COVID-19, virus not identified) are suitable for cause of death coding, it is recognised that in many countries detail as to the laboratory confirmation of COVID-19 will NOT be reported on the death certificate. In the absence of this detail, it is recommended, for mortality purposes only, to code COVID-19 provisionally to U07.1 unless it is stated as “probable” or “suspected”. In that case the cause of death is coded as U07.2.

Definition for deaths due to COVID-19

A death due to COVID-19 is defined for surveillance purposes as a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness, in a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case, unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID disease (e.g. trauma). There should be no period of complete recovery from COVID-19 between illness and death. A death due to COVID-19 may not be attributed to another disease (e.g. cancer) and should be counted independently of pre-existing conditions that are suspected of triggering a severe course of COVID-19.