A study in New York City revealed a threefold higher risk of infection among pregnant women living in neighborhoods with the most crowded households. Poverty and unemployment also appeared to increase the likelihood of infection.

SARS-CoV-2, which is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, can spread when a person coughs or sneezes, when they make physical contact with someone else, and when they touch a surface that is contaminated with the virus.

Past research has suggested that housing has a powerful influence on the transmission of infections that spread via physical contact and airborne droplets, such as tuberculosis.

A new study by researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, NY, suggests that this has contributed to a higher risk of hospitalization with and death from COVID-19 among people who live in the most deprived areas of cities.

3 times higher odds of infection

Dr. Melamed and colleagues investigated SARS-CoV-2 infections among women who lived in the city and gave birth at two hospitals in New York City between March 22, 2020, and April 21, 2020. This was the peak of the outbreak in the city.

A limitation of some other studies examining the risk of contracting the virus is that testing is often restricted to people who are sick. More than 40% of people with the virus may show no symptoms.

However, because all the women in the new study underwent testing on admission to the hospital, its results included those who had the virus but were asymptomatic.

The researchers cross-linked the patients’ home addresses with local data about housing and socioeconomic factors from the United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and New York’s Department of City Planning.

Out of the 396 women included in the study, 71 (17.9%) tested positive for the virus.

The odds of infection were three times higher among women who lived in neighborhoods where the average number of people per household was high.

The chance of infection was also two times higher in areas with the most household crowding, which the researchers defined as more than one person per room on average, and in locations with high unemployment rates.

In addition, the likelihood of infection was greater in neighborhoods with high poverty levels. However, this finding was not statistically significant due to the relatively small sample size.

Medical reference: Medical News Today