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Distance and low density can offer some protection against the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, but rural areas also have their own unique challenges when it comes to an infectious disease like the coronavirus.
THURSDAY, April 30, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- Since late last year, COVID-19 has been overwhelming health care facilities in urban areas around the world, causing more than 12,200 deaths so far in New York City alone.
As has become increasingly clear, however, rural areas are not immune.
During the past month, hundreds of pork plant workers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have tested positive for COVID-19 – one of many outbreaks in meat processing facilities throughout the country. And the Navajo Nation reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, has more than 1,600 cases.
While distance and low density offer some protection against the spread of infectious diseases, rural areas also have their own unique vulnerabilities.
"We see higher rates of hypertension, heart disease, obesity and less physical activity in rural areas," said Dr. Regina Benjamin, the 18th U.S. surgeon general under President Barack Obama. She founded a health clinic in rural Alabama and continues to work there today.
"All of those things contribute to overall health in rural communities," she said, and serious underlying health conditions may increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates for heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke – the five leading causes of death in the United States – are higher in rural areas than in urban ones.