Since late last year, COVID-19 has been overwhelming health care facilities in urban areas around the world. As has become increasingly clear, however, rural areas are not immune.

While distance and low population density offer some protection against the spread of infectious diseases, rural areas also have their own unique vulnerabilities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates for heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke – the five leading causes of death in the United States – are higher in rural areas than in urban ones.

In addition, sparsely populated regions often don’t have the same resources many urban ones do. Generally, availability of hospital care is less in rural areas. In fact, 128 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, nine of them in 2020.

This is compounded by a shortage of doctors. There are only about 55 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents in rural areas compared to more than 79 per 100,000 in urban areas. And urban areas have nearly nine times as many specialists as rural areas.

Check out the full article to learn more about the unique COVID-19 challenges that rural areas face.