COVID-19 is Badly Affecting Native American Communities

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated many countries and communities around the world. The destruction caused by SARS-CoV-2 has risen in the communities of Native Americans especially in rural eastern Arizona. Professionals from Indian Health Services (IHS) Whiteriver, AZ, are providing public health facilities to around 18,000 Native Americans, says a recent report published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Arizona is the third largest American Indian population among all the other states. Native Americans were already suffering from so many infectious diseases before the COVID-19 outbreak. Arizona had an estimated population of 7,278,717 people of which 352,770 live in rural Arizona and everyone out of eighth has already been tested positive for the deadly coronavirus. The critical part is that United States (US) has already lost more than 128,000 lives of which above 1,700 were from Arizona US according to data compiled by Coronavirus Resource Center_ Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

It has been reported by NEMJ that professionals from IHS have made a plan to limit the spread of the coronavirus that has wreaked havoc on the entire world by taking more than 524,000 lives and more than 11 million COVID-19 cases are still active throughout the world according to data reported by Worldometer.

Source: Worldometer

IHS professionals are highly relying on a technique known as contact tracing (CT) to overcome the spread of the deadly virus because there still isn’t any pharmaceutical drug has yet been developed to beat the novel coronavirus. Scientists are around the world are working eagerly to develop the medication that can fight against the virus. So, as far as we do not have the vaccine, we still can save ourselves by following the standard operating procedure (SOP) and safety recommendations that have been developed by the professional health ministries.

CT is one of the most useful techniques to limit the spread of the virus after clinical testing or swab sampling. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), CT is considered to be the fastest and safest path to recovery and also helpful in preventing further spread of COVID-19. The technique was previously used by many medical health providers against the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

Quarantine: Better Way to Limit the Spread of COVID-19

Self-isolation is almost impossible to follow in rural Arizona as most of the Native people live in crowded and multigenerational homes where they live in a joint family system. In this case. the virus can transfer from one person to another so easily. So, an effective period for being isolation is very difficult.

However, people are trying to save themselves by setting up tents for the infected patients but still, they have to face difficulties because of the limited washrooms and utensils. As per the report, sharing the washrooms and eating in the same utensils has increased the chances to get infected by the virus almost up to 80% as they are living with at least one high-risk person such as a grandparent or great grandparent. So, in these scenarios, CT would be a great help to reduce the growth of the deadly virus.

How Does CT Work?

The CT approach is used for the measurement and controls the suspected or confirmed cases of the disease in which member from State Health Departments (SHD) ask the infected patients to recall every one of those with whom they are in contact with during the outbreak of the disease. Then by following all the ethical considerations, the SHD member had to call everyone mentioned by the patients to determine whether they recently have met with the infected person or not.

Source: Governor Jay Inslee, Washington State

The IHS tracing team used the same method by asking the people of their area “Where have you been?” to asking, “Who are your grandparents?”. After they found an infected contact, they ran towards the next step to keep them in isolation until the completion of the incubation period.

The hard work of the IHS team paid off when they reached up to 1600 positive cases with only one patient that end up with the emergency department of IHS hospital. Around 400 patients received health care facilities and only 1.1% fatality cases have been reported which is less than half the rate reported for the rest of Arizona.

IHS health experts have reported:

“Recent data suggest that we have successfully flattened the curve in our community, but our situation remains precarious, given rising case counts statewide. In our current health care system, knocking on doors and talking to patients may be the most novel approach of all.”.

Source: Statista

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