Coronavirus Disease Among Persons With Sickle Cell Disease, United States, March 20–May 21, 2020

Julie A. Panepinto; Amanda Brandow; Lana Mucalo; Fouza Yusuf; Ashima Singh; Bradley Taylor; Katherine Woods; Amanda B. Payne; Georgina Peacock; Laura A. Schieve


Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2020;26(10):2473-2476. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Sickle cell disease (SCD) disproportionately affects Black or African American persons in the United States and can cause multisystem organ damage and reduced lifespan. Among 178 persons with SCD in the United States who were reported to an SCD–coronavirus disease case registry, 122 (69%) were hospitalized and 13 (7%) died.


Sickle cell disease (SCD), an inherited hemoglobinopathy that most commonly affects persons of African ancestry, is estimated to affect 1 in 365 Black persons in the United States.[1] Persons with SCD produce abnormal hemoglobin that causes erythrocytes to become rigid and deform under low oxygen conditions, leading to ischemia–reperfusion injury in the microvasculature with subsequent organ damage and pain. SCD affects nearly every organ system; average life expectancy estimates of affected persons are 43–54 years.[2,3] Persons with SCD are at increased risk for pulmonary disease and pneumonia.

Previous studies have shown that influenza severity and hospitalization rates are higher among persons with SCD than those without SCD.[4,5] Thus, persons with SCD could be at higher risk for development of severe disease if infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Although empirical data are limited, cases of COVID-19 have been reported in persons with SCD,[6–8] and a study of COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) admissions reported 2 (4%) of 48 children had SCD.[9] We describe a large series of COVID-19 cases and associated deaths among persons with SCD in the United States.