| LITTLE ROCK – A team of researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) conducted an eight-month seroprevalence study that showed that 85% of the state’s population was still susceptible to the virus by the end of 2020.
This project – as Public Library of Science ONE recently published – focused on the number of Arkansans infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 between May and December 2020, and the primary commonalities of the infections.
Victor Cardenas, a now retired epidemiologist from UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health and lead author of the report, said: “We used a random sample of adults to search for where the positive cases, their demographics, occupations and lifestyles were in the state. and to find out if they remembered being near a COVID-19 patient in or outside their household.
“Recent seroprevalence data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 64% of Arkansas residents had been infected with the coronavirus. Our study ended in late 2020 and the level of infection has quadrupled since then.”
A seroprevalence study uses antibody testing to estimate the percentage of people in a population who have antibodies to COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins that your immune system produces to help fight an infection. When a person gets a virus like the one that causes COVID-19, their immune system produces antibodies. An individual’s immune system can also create antibodies through vaccination for a virus. When a person has antibodies against a particular disorder, they gain some protection against that disease or virus.
For the study, 1,500 subjects were examined. Based on data and estimates, there was a prevalence of just over 15% of Arkansas’ population having COVID-19 antibodies by December 2020 – or one in six people in Arkansas had signs of COVID-19 infection.
Therefore, most of the state was still susceptible to infection despite the vaccines being available. By the summer of 2021, only 46% of Arkansas adults were fully vaccinated.
Combine that with the advent of the Delta and Omicron variants, both of which were extremely transferable, and Arkansas had a situation conducive to massive increases.
“The state is lagging behind in the number of people who have received the vaccine,” Cardenas said. “It’s affecting what’s going on today. It’s not too late to get vaccinated and get your loved ones immunized. The vaccines work.”
“Our study underscored the importance of getting the people of this state vaccinated,” he said. Currently, 56% of Arkansans 5 and above are fully immunized, and 13.2% are partially immunized, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
The study also drew attention to the large number of people who had COVID-19 but who did not know they were infected. It also promoted the spread of the virus.
Using information from a nationwide probability test, the researchers found that parts of Arkansas’ population had abnormally high infection rates.
People with lower education levels or low income had high infection rates. People with an infected person living in the same household had high infection rates. Some of the largest infection rates in the state were also associated with minorities.
The study also showed that people with an important job or who had a profession where they could not work from home or social distance from their colleagues, had a higher incidence of infection. The study also reports that regardless of the other risk factors, it appeared that a significant proportion of those infected contracted the virus while visiting a friend or family member.
Meanwhile, Arkansans, who stayed at home, worked from home and limited their personal interactions with others, had a much smaller infection rate.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of emphasis on contact tracking,” Cardenas said. “Early on, there was also a great emphasis on social distancing and effectively limiting the contact between people with each other. The social distancing worked.”
Although simple, protective measures make a difference, Arkansans must be willing to use them, he said.
“The transferability did not change, but the contact speed decreased due to the shutdown. Every time we relaxed, the transmission resumed,” said Cardenas. “The restriction of movements, wearing masks – those things work.”
Cardenas acknowledged that most of the results of the study were not a surprise; however, the research provided further validity to what is known about best practices for protecting Arkansans from yet another COVID-19 increase.
“Every time we fail our guard, the number of COVID-19 cases increases,” he said. “The reasons for this are that many people in Arkansas are still susceptible to the virus.
“We need to be aware of what is happening and the latest trends. We need to be vaccinated. It also includes being boosted. You have to make sure that you are protected, and so are your household members. ”
UAMS is the state’s only health science university with colleges of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, health professionals and public health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a regional campus in northwestern Arkansas in Fayetteville; a nationwide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a nationwide healthcare system that encompasses the entire UAMS clinical business. UAMS is the only level 1 adult trauma center in the state. US News & World Report recognized UAMS Medical Center as best hospital for 2021-22; ranked his ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide for the third year; and named five areas as high-performing – colon cancer surgery, diabetes, hip replacement, knee replacement and stroke. UAMS has 3,047 students, 873 medical residents and fellows, and six dentists. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 11,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians providing care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s, VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Instagram.