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COVID-19 discriminates along racial, socioeconomic lines, study finds

By Brian Dunleavy
COVID-19 discriminates along racial, socioeconomic lines, study finds
A British study has revealed racial and socioeconomic disparities among those who test positive for the coronavirus. File photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/UPI | License Photo

May 15 (UPI) -- Black people, poor people and those living in densely populated areas are up to four times more likely to test positive for COVID-19, an analysis published Friday by The Lancet has found.

The study, conducted by British researchers and focusing on trends in the United Kingdom, echoes reports of similar demographic disparities in the United States.

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"It's important to know which groups in the wider community are most at risk of infection so that we can better understand SARS-CoV-2 transmission and how to prevent new cases," study co-author Dr. Simon de Lusignan, of the University of Oxford, said in a press release.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 1.4 million Americans have been infected with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and more than 86,000 have died from COVID-19, the disease it causes, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

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In Britain, more than 238,000 people have been infected and more than 34,000 have died, Johns Hopkins estimates.

For the study, de Lusignan and his colleagues reviewed data from the Oxford RCGP Research and Surveillance Center on more than 3,800 people tested for the virus at general practitioners' offices -- primary care physicians -- between Jan. 28 and April 4. In all, 587 tested positive.

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Among adults, those between 40 and 64 years old were at the greatest risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. People in this age group accounted for 19 percent of the total study population and more than 40 percent of those who tested positive, researchers said.

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In addition, researchers noted that men accounted for more than half of the positive tests and more than 60 percent of black adults tested were positive for the virus, compared to just 16 percent of white adults tested.

This disparity remained even after the researchers accounted for underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure and diabetes, which are more common among black adults.

Moreover, 30 percent of study participants who lived in poor communities tested positive for COVID-19, compared to less than 8 percent of those residing in higher-income areas.

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Similarly, of 1,816 people tested in urban areas, just over 26 percent tested positive, while less than 6 percent of those from rural areas did so.

Of 207 people with chronic kidney disease, 33 percent tested positive, compared to less than 15 percent of those without chronic kidney disease.

"This analysis of primary care outcomes of individuals testing positive for virus is an important contribution to our wider understanding of how COVID-19 is affecting people of different demographic groups," said co-author Dr. Gayatri Amirthalingam, of Public Health England.

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The researchers cautioned that some of the findings might not provide an entirely accurate picture of racial and socioeconomic disparities associated with COVID-19, given that the study only included people who underwent a test for the virus as part of routine health services.

Such differences in access to testing have been reported in the United States, as well. To date, more than 10 million people across the country have received the RT-PCR test, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This test is considered the "gold standard," and it was used in the British study.

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