UNMC Study Examines Effects of COVID-19 on Those With Rheumatoid Arthritis

May 24, 2021, 3 p.m. ·

Dr. England portrait
Dr. Bryant England is an assistant professor in the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine Division of Rheumatology & Immunology and the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System. (Courtesy photo)

COVID-19 case numbers are low in the state, but research on the virus is far from over. A yearlong study led by a University of Nebraska Medical Center and Veteran’s Affairs researcher looked at the effects of COVID-19 on those with rheumatoid arthritis. The study showed that those with RA have a 25% higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and a 35% higher risk of a COVID-19 hospitalization or death than those without the disease.

UNMC assistant professor of rheumatology and immunology and the study's lead author Dr. Bryant England says RA patients typically treat their disease with therapies suppressing their immune systems. 

"The risk we saw with rheumatoid arthritis was very similar to the risk that people had who have heart failure or who have a chronic lung disease or who have diabetes,” Dr. England said.

The study used a national Veteran’s Affairs health care database, comparing around 34,000 patients with rheumatoid arthritis to around 34,000 patients without it. Dr. England says patients with RA should talk to their physicians if they have any questions.