What coronavirus means for people with diabetes

Apr 01, 2020
Around 1.7 million Australians live with diabetes. Source: Getty.

If you’ve been keeping up-to-date with all the latest news on who’s most at risk of contracting coronavirus, then you’d know people living with underlying conditions like diabetes might be at higher risk of developing complications.

Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus and diabetes — and how to avoid infection.

Why is coronavirus more dangerous for people with diabetes?

So far, there is no evidence that people with diabetes are more at risk of contracting Covid-19, but there is research that suggests that diabetics are at greater risk of developing serious complications from the disease, Dr Ian Williams tells Starts at 60.

A report published in the medical journal JAMA that examined more than 72,000 Chinese coronavirus patients found that the overall fatality rate was 2.3 per cent. But in patients with diabetes, the fatality rate rose to 7.3 per cent.

So why are people with diabetes at an increased risk? Dr Williams explains that the new coronavirus can latch itself onto human cells and infect them. “Coronavirus binds to their target cells through angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is found on cells in the lung, intestine, kidney and blood vessels,” he says.

“There are more ACE2 enzymes on the cells of patients with diabetes and so the virus can enter cells more easily, as there are more entry points.”

In addition — especially with type 2 diabetes — diabetes is also linked to other health problems including heart disease and high blood pressure, both of which are in the high-risk group for contracting coronavirus.

What precautions should people with diabetes be taking?

Dr Williams advises avoiding close contact with others and practising good personal hygiene. That includes trying to stay home as much as possible, avoiding public spaces and washing your hands with soap and water on a frequently. He also recommends getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Meanwhile, Diabetes Australia says there’s no need for alarm, but people with diabetes should be aware that, just like with the flu, they’re at a greater risk. The organisation recommends reviewing and updating your sick day management plan in the event of an emergency.

Diabetes Australia is also encouraging people with diabetes to avoid stockpiling medications, stating that there are no current national shortages or supply issues with insulin, diabetes medicine or NDSS products.

“People with diabetes are advised to order and obtain your diabetes medicines and supplies as usual,” a statement released by Diabetes Australia said. “There is no need to stockpile.”

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