Coronavirus: Southwest Ohio officials raise warning for pregnant Hispanic women

The coronavirus is disproportionately common in pregnant Hispanic and Latina women from the region extending from the Dayton area and Butler County to Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, doctors who serve them told this media outlet.

The dozen-plus hospitals and hospital groups in that area served by neonatologists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center had a total of 150 mothers from all races and nationalities test positive for the virus, said Dr. Scott Wexelblatt, the medical director of Regional Newborn Services for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“But when you look at our number of mothers that were Hispanic, we actually had 67,” Wexelblatt said this week. “So 45 percent of our mothers are of Hispanic origin.”

The percentage has dropped from 59 percent a few weeks ago, but “that’s still astronomically higher than we would have expected,” he said.

There are 14 hospitals served by Cincinnati Children’s doctors, including three in the Dayton area, three in Butler County, seven in Greater Cincinnati and one in Northern Kentucky.

The percentage of Black women who are pregnant with coronavirus in that group is also disproportionately high, at 29 percent, compared with the population in the region.

U.S. Census estimates for the percentages of groups living in Butler, Montgomery and Hamilton counties, as of mid-2019 include:

• In Butler County, 5 percent Hispanic, 9.2 percent African-American

• In Montgomery County, 3.3 percent Hispanic, 21.5 percent African-American

• In Hamilton County: 3.6 percent Hispanic, 26.6 African-American

Many of the 150 mothers who tested positive lacked symptoms, Wexelblatt said.

“Some of them are shocked to find out that they’re positive,” he said.

Dr. Amy RL Rule, a neonatal and pediatric hospitalist with Cincinnati Children’s, said factors likely leading to higher virus rates among Hispanic, Latina and Black woman include that high percentages of them are “essential workers” who come into more contact with people on their jobs, and often don’t have sick days available to them. Also, many share living quarters with multi-generational families, while others who caught the virus had considered it a hoax.

RELATED ARTICLE: Data show Butler County Hispanic residents contracting coronavirus at high rates

“Luckily, out of those 150 mothers, we’ve only had one positive infant in our region,” Wexelblatt said. “So we think the spread doesn’t happen inside — we call that vertical transmission.”

Also, the virus doesn’t seem to be as harmful to babies or young children as other groups, so mothers and infants are being kept together in hospitals, he said.

One reason the positive percentages for these groups may have slipped in recent weeks is that now almost every hospital is testing all mothers for COVID-19, so hospitals know how much personal protective equipment health-care workers should wear, Wexelblatt said.

Dr. Clara Chlon, a staff physician of neonatology and pulmonary biology at Cincinnati Children’s, said doctors have created resource pages to share with families with protective measures for avoiding the virus and prevent from spreading it.

“We have preventive measures and also support measures that we’ve been sharing with our patients,” Chlon said. “And I’d like to think it’s had some effect.”

Rule said she does work with health-disparity work even in non-COVID times and works with groups that advocate for health-care in Hispanic and Latino communities. The doctors also have worked on awareness campaigns about importance of masks.

“I think one of the things that we saw (with labor and delivery) was that we started testing people even before there was widespread community testing,” Rule said. “I think we were actually able to share that data with the health departments and the Latino collaboratives and others, and now there’s actually a lot more community testing available, and we are trying to go where people are, and going to communities and neighborhoods that are the most impacted.”

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