Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Coronavirus Risk Higher in Native Rural Areas

“When you start out with health conditions that are worse than a majority … you’re already vulnerable and at risk’. As the coronavirus spread outward from cosmopolitan hot spots it reached the rural Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation on Monday. In due course, it’ll reach more isolated rural areas.” J. Estus, ICT

 

Edward Enoch, Yup’ik, unloads chunks of ice chipped out of a river and hauled home by snow-machine to melt for drinking, washing, and other uses in western Alaska. (Credit- Charles Enoch,)

Excerpt: Coronavirus Risk Compounded in Rural Areas By Joaqlin Estus, ICT

“Unfortunately, indications are rural areas harbor conditions that contribute to higher rates of infection and people getting more sick than in urban areas.

According to the First Nations Development Institute’s report Twice Invisible: Understanding Rural Native America, 54 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native people live in rural and small-town areas on or near reservations.

The Notah Begay III Foundation report Native Strong lists factors in Indian Country that contribute to diabetes and obesity. The same factors affect overall health. They include poverty, low educational attainment, and historical trauma. Housing shortages and overcrowding facilitate the spread of disease. A lack of self determination and cultural activities affect Native health too.

Dalee Sambo Dorough, PhD, Inupiaq, is the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. She said the health of Indigenous people living in rural Arctic Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (in Russia) is compromised by a range of conditions ranging from food insecurity to air pollution.

‘The overall general condition of individual health and wellbeing is contributing to a lower life expectancy,’ Sambo Dorough said. ‘We’ve had a whole history of epidemics that have devastated our communities in the past and tuberculosis being on the rise now, all of these things are compounded with other adverse impacts like climate change that make it really difficult for our communities to even respond to something like the coronavirus.

So when you start out with health conditions that are worse than a majority of the people in the rest of, for example, the United States, you’re already vulnerable and at risk,’ Dorough said…’We have had really decades of lack of public health measures to prevent the spread of disease. And then you add all these other layers including the limited space and capacity to treat patients with severe illness in rural areas,’ said Sambo Dorough.

‘These are matters that are nothing new. And that’s why the Inuit Circumpolar Council calls upon governments to take action to close those gaps.’

No one wants to get that sick, so prevention is key. Covering coughs, staying home when sick, and the CDC recommends, ‘Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,’ to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Twice as many homes in Indian Country lack running water compared to other Americans. (Credit- Joaqlin Estus)

However, Indian Country has about twice as many homes without running water and flush toilets as other Americans. In its annual report on sanitation deficiencies, the Indian Health Service said of 68,000 American Indian and Alaska Native homes, ‘approximately 7,600 (or 1.9 percent) lack access to a safe water supply and/or waste disposal facilities, compared to less than 1 percent of homes for the US general population.’

Overcrowding is a major factor in the transmission of diseases. Housing shortages can force families to live in small, older homes similar to this one in Kwethluk, Alaska. (Credit- Joaqlin Estus)

Alaskans without piped water can buy water, which even if only ten cents a gallon is too costly for most villagers. Many collect rainwater and chip ice out of rivers and lakes to melt for daily use…When COVID-19 does arrive in Indian Country, some of the places it lands will be areas without long-standing systems of reliable access to primary and specialty care. In some places, it will land amid people living in conditions that contribute to higher rates of infection. Properly handled, however, risk can be minimized.

The Coronavirus: What We Need to Know

“U.S. health officials offered a reality check Tuesday about the scary new virus from China: They’re expanding screenings of international travelers and taking other precautions but for now, they insist the risk to Americans is very low.” Q. Yazzie, ICT

IHS Emergency Management Coordinator Gerald Johnson, Navajo, is being fit tested for an N95 respirator. Credit- R Benally Phoenix IMC 2

Excerpt: Indian Health Service prepares for the Novel Coronavirus By Quindrea Yazzie, ICT

“In the U.S. so far, there are five confirmed patients, all of whom had traveled to the hardest-hit part of China — and no sign that they have spread the illness to anyone around them. The most recent case hit Maricopa County, Arizona, where an adult from the Arizona State University community tested positive for the virus. According to county health departments the patient lives in Tempe, Arizona, but does not live in university student housing. It is not known whether the individual is a student, faculty member or on staff at the university.

Arizona State University is working closely with Maricopa County Department of Public Health to investigate any potential contacts that this individual may have exposed.  A university statement said any direct contacts will be notified. “The university remains open and classes are not cancelled,” said Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle.

Where did the virus Start?

“Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by Coronavirus in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread,” the CDC reported. “However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring.”

Travelers at a train station in Yichang, China, about 200 miles from Wuhan. Credit- CHINATOPIX, via Associated Press

What is the virus?

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that sicken mostly animals, but six of these cases, like SARS and MERS, are known to infect people. This new type of the coronavirus adds to the list, marking it number seven of now eight cneoronavirus types.

Coronaviruses are named for the spikes that protrude from their membranes, which resemble the sun’s corona. image- NativeAntigen

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms begin after an incubation period of 2-14 days according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those infected have symptoms of a fever, a cough and shortness of breath. Severity of the symptoms could lead to hospitalization and even death.

Source- Center for Disease Control and Prevention-USA Today

What is being done?

Airports in Wuhan, China, are restricting outbound traffic and health screenings are now being conducted at U.S. airports. The CDC announced that at least 20 U.S. airports have also initiated health screens to seek preventative measures against the spread of the virus.

Chartered planes carrying evacuees home to Japan and the United States left Wuhan early Wednesday as other countries planned similar evacuations from areas China has shut down to try to contain the virus. The lockdown of 17 cities has trapped more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed.

IHS prepares for the virus

The Indian Health Service’s Phoenix Indian Medical Center has been taking the initiative to prepare for the respiratory illness.

The Indian Health Service will continue to follow normal policies and procedures for evaluation and treatment of respiratory illnesses, said Constance James, director of community relations and tribal affairs.

When asked if Indian Country should be concerned about the virus, Dr. Jennefer Kieran, director of Inpatient & Specialty Services at Phoenix Indian Medical Center, said there is a protocol set in place by the IHS leadership team along with infection control and special rooms are in place for critical respiratory illnesses.

How to Prevent Catching the virus?

The important thing to do right now is to take precautions, continuing to wash your hands and covering your cough.

“While any direct impacts of this outbreak to Indian Country are not yet known, we must be vigilant in our efforts to prevent the introduction and spread of infections among our patients and within the communities we serve,” James said.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez released a statement on the virus stating, “as we continue to closely monitor the coronavirus, we caution our Navajo people and encourage them to be aware of the growing spread of the virus. This is a serious public health concern that must be shared with all people.

“We ask that you share information with your children, elders and others who may not have access to information via internet, television and other means.”~Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez~