Survey focus: long COVID impact on Latino communities

The project with SeaMar Community Health Centers, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic and Allen Institute to study communities.

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The University of Washington's Latino Center for Health has launched a study to better understand the extent and impact of long COVID on the state's Latino communities.

Partners in the research are SeaMar Community Health Centers, the Allen Institute for Immunology, and the Yakima Farmer Workers Clinics, which have served the state’s Latino communities for many years.

“With this survey we hope to determine how many members of the Latino community are currently affected by long COVID, and how it is impacting their health and well-being,” said study leader Dr. Leo Morales, a professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine and co-director of the Latino Center for Health. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Latinos have the highest rates of long COVID. About 9% of Hispanic adults report symptoms, compared with 7.5% of U.S. adults overall.

Dr. Leo Morales at the University of Washington
"I suspect that a lot of people in Latino communities don’t know they have long COVID," said Dr. Leo Morales, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, Latino communities in Washington state have had higher rates of COVID-19 infection than the general population, higher rates of hospitalization, and higher rates of mortality on an age-adjusted basis,” Morales noted. “Yet we are not seeing many people from Latino communities showing up in our long-COVID clinics.”

“Many Latinos may not be aware of the symptoms of long COVID,” Morales said. “I suspect that a lot of people in Latino communities don’t know they have long COVID. They’re feeling badly, they’re having problems with fatigue or brain fog; they’re just not doing well, but they don’t exactly know why. Helping people understand what is going on and guiding them to evaluation and treatment is important.”

Access to care is also a major challenge for many in these communities, Morales added.

The survey will focus on Latinos age 18 years and older who have had a positive COVID-19 test result. The questionnaire will include questions about symptoms, the respondents' medical history, whether they received the COVID vaccine, their physical and mental health, and their social and economic situations. 

The survey will use the World Health Organization’s definition of long COVID: symptoms that began within three months of a probable or confirmed case of infection, which have persisted at least two months and cannot be explained by another diagnosis. Common long-COVID symptoms include fatigue, fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and problems with memory and thinking, often called “brain fog.”

The survey will also ask participants if they would be interested in participating in a follow-on clinical study, which is being planned in collaboration with the Allen Institute for Immunology. That study will examine potential roles in long-COVID of the immune system and health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, which are more common in Latino populations.

“Partnering with the Latino Center for Health at the University of Washington, SeaMar Community Health Centers, and the Yakima Farmer Workers Clinics is a meaningful way to begin to address disparities in health equity in Washington,” said Ernie Coffey, executive director of scientific operations at the Allen Institute for Immunology. “We’re happy to play a role in such an important initiative.”

Morales said he hopes the project’s findings will not only help improve care of Latino individuals affected by long COVID, but also help guide policymakers to develop appropriate long-COVID services for Latino communities.

Written by Michael McCarthy

Related: Download broadcast-ready English and Spanish soundbites with Morales giving context to the survey.

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Tags:immunologyhealth equitylong COVID

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