New research shows COVID-19 impacted otherwise healthy Native Americans disproportionately
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New research is showing evidence that COVID-19 hit Native American communities even harder than previously thought.
A recently-published study from the University of New Mexico shows, for the first time, there were disproportionately higher numbers of tragic outcomes even among Native Americans who did not have pre-existing conditions – meaning COVID-19 hurt otherwise healthy Native Americans more than it did other races and ethnicities.
Among the hundreds studied, Native Americans were more than three times more likely to be severely ill and more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19.
Researchers Dr. D.J. Perkins and Dr. Ivy Hurwitz with the UNM Center for Global Health said they first noticed simply how many Native Americans were needing to go to a hospital.
“It was a very clear signal in the hospital early on and that persisted throughout,” said Perkins, who is the center’s director. “There was a disproportionate level based on the statewide population of American Indians who were hospitalized.”
They did not set out to study Native Americans. They wanted to figure out what may cause someone to have more severe symptoms.
They studied all types of UNM hospital patients starting early in the pandemic.
They believe the findings show the immune systems of otherwise healthy Native Americans reacted poorly to COVID-19.
“How we process it immunologically often times determines how well we control the infection,” Perkins said.
Sadly, the new research shows similarities to how Native communities have reacted to past illnesses.
“The Native population that suffered from Tuberculosis and H1N1 suffered disproportionately compared to the rest of the population,” Hurwitz said.
These researchers say getting someone medical help early is key.
“It’s telling us that interventions are particularly important. Early intervention and the appropriate clinical management,” Perkins said.
With any research like this, the hope is that there can be a better response for a future deadly virus.