How can Coronavirus affect people living with diabetes?
With Coronavirus announced as a Pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020 panic, rumors and fear has started to escalate among people. This article draws focus on COVID-19 for people living with diabetes, why they should be extra cautious and what precautionary methods they should be taking.
What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
As WHO defines it: “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19”1. It can be transmitted from person to person via small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth1.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough and they may appear after 2-14 days of exposure to COVID-19. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms; older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
Risk of Coronavirus for people living with diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) “people with diabetes face a greater risk of complications when dealing with viral infections like the flu, which is likely to be true with COVID-19”2.
The reason behind this rationale is that when your glucose levels are fluctuating or consistently high, your body has a lower immune response. Which means you are less protected from any bacteria, flu or disease3. However, while there is no proven direct connection between diabetes and health from COVID-19 the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)4 reports a higher fatality rate among individuals with preexisting conditions:
- 10.5% for cardiovascular disease
- 7.3% for diabetes
- 6.3% for chronic respiratory disease
- 6% for hypertension
- 5.6% for cancer
I have diabetes what safety measures can I take against Coronavirus (COVID-19)3,5,6?
- Handwashing: wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds per wash; make sure to be thorough (wash under your fingertips and between your fingers). Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay at home if you feel sick and avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Wear a Mask: Cover your mouth & nose by wearing a cloth mask whenever you are around others.
- Keep your diabetes in control: the risk of severe complications from COVID-19 increases when your diabetes is not well managed; so make sure you test more frequently every day, to ensure your BG levels are always within range.
- Secure your supplies: make sure you have sufficient supplies for blood glucose monitoring and diabetes medication like test strips & insulin.
- Keep your distance: stay at least 1 meter away from others that might be coughing or sneezing.
- Wear Gloves: avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places–elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Wear disposable gloves or use a tissue to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something; and then get rid of them immediately without touching the areas used to touch these surfaces.
- Sanitize: any frequently used technology, devices and/or any object you touch as well as your hands after you touch any exterior object e.g. an elevator button, a shopping cart, a deliver bag/order. Please use sanitizers contain AT LEAST 60% alcohol
What should you do if you have symptoms?
Contact your Health Care professional prior to going to the emergency room for hospitalization, unless you are suspecting there is another emergency such as Ketoacidosis.