Coronavirus Chronicles — History’s Long Shadow Affects Health

What most Americans know about sickle cell disease is that only black people get it. Like many nuggets of commonly known information, this is inaccurate. There are other demographics with an elevated instance of sickle cell trait:

[…] not just African Americans, but also Latin Americans from Central and South America and people of Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean descent.

To carry the sickle cell “trait” means a person has one copy of the mutated gene. In practical terms, they might spend an entire life without really running into difficulty. They probably should be extra careful about who they have children with, because if both parents carry the gene, trouble may ensue. Now, a new factor has entered the equation.

The previous Childhood Obesity News post discussed how people of color pay a disproportionate price for catching the novel coronavirus, and how this is especially true if they are obese. Now it looks as if possessing the sickle cell trait, in combination with COVID-19, can be deadly. Folks from the aforementioned groups who catch the virus may need extra interventions, like blood transfusions, anticoagulant medication, and oxygen.

Journalist Usha Lee McFarling writes,

The Medical College of Wisconsin has created a national registry to track infected sickle cell patients, and while the data are not conclusive, they so far suggest having sickle cell disease may lead to worse outcomes and a higher risk of death.

The science on this is not yet solid, but it begins to look as if “that might be one reason the virus is disproportionately sickening and killing Black Americans.” People who believe this might affect them can obtain more information and advice from the Sickle Cell Disease News website.

All along, the United Kingdom has been more straightforward about admitting that historical racism has a lot to do with the reasons why certain populations are more endangered. The shorthand notation there is BAME — Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic. Health writer Denis Campbell said of a controversial government study,

The main report found that people from black ethnic groups were most likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 and those from BAME groups overall had the highest death rates. Those of Bangladeshi origin faced the highest risk of dying — twice that of white Britons — while people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other black backgrounds faced an extra risk ranging between 10% and 50%.

Racism and discrimination suffered by Britain’s black, Asian and minority ethnic people has contributed to the high death rates from Covid-19 in those communities, an official inquiry has found.

For a pair of very useful resources, readers may want to consult two pages from APM Research Lab. The first, packed with facts, is titled “The Color of Coronavirus: COVID-19 Deaths by Race and Ethnicity in the U.S.” The other, “The Color of Coronavirus Response Panel,” is a collection of reactions to those facts from 10 experts.

One eye-opening example is from Philadelphia pediatric surgeon Dr. Ala Stanford:

It was disheartening to learn in my age group that I am six times more likely to die than someone who is 10 years older than me and White. It doesn’t matter that I’m a doctor or educated or that I have good insurance. This is not about income; this is about color. The virus does not discriminate; however, the people in the institutions that control whether you are tested, what resources are allocated to you, and how and if you are treated for coronavirus may discriminate — and it has the same deleterious effects on the African-American community.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Millions of Americans carry the sickle cell trait, many without knowing it…,”, 09/03/20
Source: “Racism contributed to disproportionate UK BAME coronavirus deaths, inquiry finds,”, 06/14/20
Source: “The Color of Coronavirus Response Panel,”, undated
Image: Public Domain

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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