Diabetes & COVID

Diabetes, disparities, and Covid-19: Three intertwined ‘epidemics’ raise risk of severe illness and death

October 1, 2020 | Elizabeth Cooney

There are no easy answers to the coronavirus pandemic, but for people with diabetes, it’s dismayingly difficult to untangle the thicket of biological and socioeconomic factors that make them more likely to suffer severe illness and die should they catch the virus that causes Covid-19. That leaves prevention — controlling blood sugar through diet, exercise, monitoring, and medication — as the leading tactic to protect people, until a successful vaccine proven to work in people with diabetes, too, reaches a population bearing multiple burdens of chronic illness.

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Are people with chronic conditions at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19?

A new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that people with chronic conditions including diabetes, lung disease and heart disease appear to be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

The report finds 78% of COVID-19 patients in the U.S. requiring admission to the intensive care unit had at least one underlying condition. And 94% of hospitalized patients who died had an underlying condition. The analysis is a preliminary snapshot based on data from about 7,000 cases in the U.S. and about 200 deaths.

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COVID-19 and Chronic Disease

COVID-19 is a brand new disease, and there is limited definitive information on the risk factors posed by other chronic diseases. For information on COVID-19 in Delaware, please go to: de.gov/coronavirus

The following information is taken directly from the CDC:

Symptoms

Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

Watch for fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Who is at Risk?

Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Based upon available information to date, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Other high-risk conditions could include:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • People who have serious heart conditions
    • People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
    • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk
  • People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk

Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Stay home.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid close contact (6 feet, which is about two arm lengths) with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched services.
  • Avoid all cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
  • Call your healthcare professional if you have concerns about COVID-19 and your underlying condition or if you are sick.