As the world confronts the ongoing and growing coronavirus pandemic, the diagnosis of one of America’s most beloved actors with the disease caused by the virus — COVID-19 — has put a spotlight on the link between diabetes and this infection, as noted in an article in USA Today.
Are diabetics more at risk for coronavirus?
Tom Hanks, the article notes, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2013 — one of many health conditions that experts believe put people at greater risk for developing COVID-19 and having a more severe disease course, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, recently tested positive for the virus in Australia after developing body aches, fever, and chills, according to the actor’s own description.
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There are at least two reasons why people with diabetes may be at higher risk for severe COVID-19, as noted by the International Diabetes Federation. One is that your immune system may be compromised by diabetes, which makes it harder for your body to fight the virus over the course of the illness. The other is that the new coronavirus may thrive in the environment of higher blood glucose levels.
But there may be even more reasons, at least in some people with diabetes. It’s still unclear exactly what effect COVID-19 has on organ systems in the body, but we do know that many people with diabetes already have damage to certain organs as a result of the condition — such as your heart or kidneys. These organs may be more prone to damage in some people with diabetes than in most other people who get COVID-19.
It’s also possible that the immune response to COVID-19 in many people with diabetes — particularly those with higher blood glucose levels — involves more inflammation throughout the body, as can happen with any infection. That means there may be more tissue damage in many different areas of the body, leading to more severe illness.
According to the CDC, it’s important that people with diabetes and any other high-risk group take the following precautions during this pandemic:
• Stock up on food and other basic supplies, including insulin and other medications
• Avoid crowds, and keep your distance from other people as much as possible
• Avoid touching surfaces in public spaces, and wash your hands often, especially if you’ve touched anything outside your home
• Avoid all nonessential travel, especially cruise ships
• If there are many cases of COVID-19 in your community, stay home as much as possible
Want to learn more about coronavirus? Read “Coronavirus and Diabetes: What You Need to Know” and “Preventing Coronavirus: Diabetes Questions and Answers.”