Scientists study COVID-19 impact on North inhabitants

Scientists study COVID-19 impact on North inhabitants

June 05, 2020

In can be harder for people in the Arctic to fight off the desease, but they are not in danger of massive infection.

For the North residents  the coronavirus may be more dangerous than for the population of other regions.  On the one hand, there is a lack of ultraviolet and vitamins, on the other hand, extremely low temperatures and low population density.  Izvestia wrote about this with reference to the analytical report of the Research Institute of the Higher School of Economics prepared for the Arctic Council meeting , which is held in June.

Experts believe that for the indigenous  people of the Arctic, as well as for workers of northern industrial enterprises, there are additional risks of infection and the clinical severity of coronavirus impact.

 “Calcium, iodine, zinc, vitamin D deficiency  is widespread among the indigenous population of the Arctic, this can affect the course of the disease.  Poor housing can also have a negative impact, ” the research says.

However, the effect of vitamin D, iodine, or any other elements on the course of coronavirus infection has not yet been scientifically confirmed.  This question is only being studied, but there is evidence that the lack of these substances weakens the immune system.  Although there is no starvation problem in the North, there are enough fruit and vegetables, dairy products that contain vitamin D.  And the lack of sunlight is compensated by special ultraviolet devices, which are also used in kindergartens and schools.

 “It’s no secret that it’s more difficult  for the residents of the Arctic regions to overcome respiratory diseases because of low temperature.  Another feature is so-called civilizational immunity.  Indigenous people, living a traditional life and being more than a thousand years isolated from others, do not have it, therefore their susceptibility to infectious diseases is many times greater.  For example, the prevalence of hepatitis and zoonotic infections is higher, ” Boris Morgunov, one of the authors of the work, director of the Institute of Ecology of the Higher School of Economics, told Izvestia.

However, the analytical note also tells about the factors which, on the contrary, inhibit the spread of coronavirus infection in the Arctic.  These are extremely low temperatures and low population density – people live rather far from each other.

 According to Pavel Volchkov, the head of the MIPT laboratory of genomic engineering, “in general, an epidemic does not pose a great danger for the northern people, only visitors can bring the infection to these regions”.  But the expert is sure: isolated cases of the disease are unlikely to lead to mass infection .

Text: Angelika Stepanova, Photo: Elena Schipkova /

June 05, 2020

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