COVID is short for Collaborative Activity in Viral Infectious Disorders, a community-based disease surveillance system that uses volunteers to collect information about infectious diseases in their communities. The volunteers are trained to ask questions about new cases and deaths they find, and the data they collect make it possible to conduct epidemiological studies of viral infections. “”” “””
The researchers found that among all the counties with disproportionately high COVID-19 rates—counties in which more than 20 percent of residents were African Americans—those with the most cases had more than double the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths compared to the national average. They also found that African American women were disproportionately affected by this strain of influenza; they accounted for nearly 60 percent of the overall cases and deaths.
The authors describe these findings as “troubling”: “They suggest that COVID volunteers in high-COVID-19 counties may underestimate true disease burden during the early stages of the pandemic, even when their practices are very good.”
The CDC database shows that in 2014, there were more than eight times as many deaths in the Mississippi counties that are disproportionately Black than there were in the rest of the state combined. And in 2015, there were more than seven times as many deaths in the Mississippi counties that are disproportionately Black than there were in the rest of the state combined.
The CDC database tracks only cases and deaths—not the number of people who became ill or died—so it’s not possible to determine how many cases or deaths occurred in Mississippi counties that are also disproportionately Black. But by using a mathematical model that factors in population density, researchers estimate that about 200 people died from COVID-19 infections in Mississippi counties with high rates of Black residents, compared with about 618 people who died across the whole state. For comparison, there were about 1,064 cases reported across all 35 states and District of Columbia with high rates of Black residents.
In the United States, Black people are more likely to live in communities that have higher rates of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. And they’re also more likely to die from them. In a new study led by researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, published today in Annals of Epidemiology, researchers looked at the relationship between COVID-19 cases and deaths and factors such as race/ethnicity, income, education level, and tobacco use.
The researchers found that Black people were disproportionately affected by COVID-19, both in terms of cases (overrepresentation) and deaths (underrepresentation). There were no differences among Black men or White men in terms of their risk for COVID-19 infection.
With the exception of a few counties in West Virginia and New York City, the majority of COVID-19 cases and deaths were reported in counties that are more than 60% Black.
“The magnitude of incidence and mortality was substantial—11 other diseases were also more prevalent in black counties than in white ones over the same period; only HIV/AIDS and cancer were considerably more prevalent,” says study author Dr. Gary Freed, a research associate at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Researchers at the CDC traced COVID-19 cases in the U.S. to the earliest possible data published—January 2006, when it was discovered that a new strain of avian flu was circulating in Taiwan.
Since then, research has continued to reveal additional details about the clustering of cases in certain areas of the country. Researchers have found that COVID-19 cases are most likely to be found in counties with higher rates of both race/ethnicity and poverty levels in their populations.
The study looked at the “cluster probability” for COVID-19 in counties in Florida, New York, Texas, Ohio, Colorado and Alabama. The researchers found that counties with a larger percentage of African-Americans had higher levels of unexplained deaths.
This is not to say that African Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. But the fact remains that they are. If you’re in a community where an outbreak has hit hard, it’s best to consider how getting your hands dirty could help you get ahead.
The majority of the disparity in use and death was due to higher rates of COVID-19 in cases and deaths among Blacks, and that higher rates were greatest in the most Black areas.
It’s not just that there are higher rates of infection in the Black community, but also that the infection is spreading more quickly, which has led to greater numbers of deaths.
The primary mode of transmission for COVID-19 is still unknown, but the evidence points to airborne spread, although it’s possible that some cases are acquired through other routes. It’s also worth noting that about one-third of all confirmed cases have occurred among people who have not traveled to West Africa or have never been to Africa at all. So, it could be that this virus doesn’t spread as efficiently outside the region where it first emerged.
There are many factors that determine the percentage of black people in a county. While poverty and unemployment rates can affect the number of black residents, so can socioeconomic factors such as health care accessibility and transportation links to jobs and schooling. But what about COVID-19?
When it comes to COVID-19, geologist Jeffrey M. Kahan and colleagues found that—unlike other forms of humaninfection—the virus was more likely to cause infection among those out of work, those with low education levels or those living in rural areas. In particular, those living in counties with a high population density, as well as those living in urban areas were at greatest risk of infection.
The researchers, from the University of Michigan, analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. They estimated that COVID-19 cases are on the rise in areas of the country where blacks are disproportionately represented. The rates are higher in rural areas inhabited by people who are poor, have lower levels of education and live in areas with more concentrated poverty.
In a 2010 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that there were nearly 13 million people living with HIV in the United States, most of them in the South. In many parts of that region, HIV prevalence rates can be as high as 30 percent. In addition to Black communities, the CDC has identified Latino and Asian communities as being disproportionately affected by HIV.
In a recent review of COVID-19 mortality data from 2009 through 2013, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that those communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus over time. The CDC estimates that Black men who have sex with men accounted for about 60 percent of all new cases in 2013 alone.
The researchers found that some counties had more than 70 percent of all COVID-19 cases and deaths, while others had more than 90 percent of the infections.
The scientists said that these numbers are significant because they show that the proportion of infected people in a county is related to the number of cases in that county.
They found that the risk of death was 43 percent higher in counties with high levels of COVID-19 prevalence than in counties with low prevalence. When they analyzed death certificates, they found that in counties with high levels of COVID-19 prevalence, there were fewer deaths from other causes (cardiac and respiratory diseases), but more deaths from sepsis and pneumonia.
The study’s authors write, “Our findings suggest that the spread of EVD [Ebola virus disease] to new geographic regions is associated with an increased risk of death from other causes as well as from sepsis and pneumonia (pneumonia is a major cause of death worldwide).”
The finding suggests that, as the virus has spread, it has not been equally distributed across Black America.
The researchers used a computational model to calculate the odds that each county was hit by COV-19. The chances that any given county would be hit were very low (about 1 in 6 million), which they say makes sense given the virus’s geographic spread. But when they looked at counties with more than 6 percent of their residents identifying themselves as Black (the threshold considered statistically significant), the chance of them being hit by COV-19 increased to about 4 in 6 million.
The researchers found similar results for counties with more than 8 percent of their residents identifying themselves as Black.
“We think we’re seeing a new disease,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. John Aucott of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s something that we haven’t seen before. It’s completely different from what we’ve seen in the past. And it seems to be catastrophic.”
COVID-19 is a rare infection caused by a parasite called Leishmania amazonensis. Researchers say it causes an aggressive and often fatal form of cutaneous leishmaniasis — a disease that causes skin lesions — in both urban and rural populations of the American tropics. So far, they have documented more than 2,000 cases in 20 U.S. states since 2016, but many more may exist in countries like Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil
There are few things in this world that make a mother’s heart go pitter-patter quite like the thought of her baby growing old with neurological challenges. The odds are stacked heavily against them, but if their story can give hope to others who’ve gone before, it’s well worth telling.
The good news is that there are treatments—even for severe cases of COVID-19. And although it may be challenging to get care, there are people on the ground ready to help.
My son was born with COVID-19 in November 2015. He was diagnosed with the condition at just 36 weeks gestation after I started noticing some strange behaviors. Things like huge grins or uncontrollable laughter or staring off into space all on his own for no reason whatsoever. It was pretty concerning because my son is only 13 weeks old and still had plenty of time to grow out of these behaviors before he even reached his first birthday. I scheduled an appointment at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) where they requested a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) and spinal fluid analysis to check for signs of central nervous system (CNS) disorders like hydrocephalus or meningitis; this test is used to determine if your baby has any signs of infection or autoimmune disease in their brain or spinal cord. After receiving the results of my son’s tests, the doctors quickly confirmed what I feared… my son was suffering from COVID-19 which is an extremely rare disorder that leads to progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a devastating brain disease that leads to dementia and death within 2-5 years of diagnosis.
In the U.S., blacks have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS from the beginning. In 1981, a study reported that a black person was 40 times more likely to be infected with HIV than a white person. That disparity is partly due to the fact that blacks make up a disproportionate percentage of those who inject drugs, and HIV transmission rates for those who inject drugs were higher in the early days of the pandemic.
In addition, there are several factors that may contribute to high numbers of AIDS cases and deaths in specific communities:
Racial disparities in access to testing and care. We know that African-Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS late in the course of infection because they aren’t getting tested as frequently as whites and don’t receive the same type of care as whites.”
In addition to being a reflection of the general health of a community, these results point to a potential link between the historic lack of access to medical care and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) treatment and a disproportionate burden of mortality for Blacks.