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Coronavirus patients with diabetes more likely to die from the virus: study

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Three out of 10 diabetic patients treated for the novel coronavirus either required ventilation or died within a week of hospitalization, a new French study found.

Researchers looked at more than 1,300 patients with COVID-19 in French hospitals who also had diabetes — 89 per cent of whom had Type 2 — and found that 10 per cent died by day seven of their hospitalization, and one in five needed a ventilator to breathe.

Eighteen per cent were discharged from hospital by day seven.

The average age of those in the study was 70 years old and the majority of the patients were men.

While diabetes is believed to be a risk factor for more serious COVID-19 outcomes, the findings, published in medical journal Diabetologia, found that those with diabetic complications were more likely to die from the disease than those without additional health issues.

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READ MORE: Don’t ignore diabetes symptoms because you’re afraid of catching COVID-19, doctors say

Age was also a factor, as researchers found that patients over 75 were more likely to die than those under 55, and conditions like obstructive sleep apnoea and higher BMI were associated with increased risk of death as well.

“Special attention should be paid to elderly people with long-standing diabetes and advanced diabetic complications, who are at increased risk of fatal COVID-19,” researchers wrote, suggesting that it is important to limit risk exposure to the virus.

Other research out of the U.K. has found that both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are “independently associated with a significant increased risk of in-hospital death with COVID-19.”

Health Canada says that there is an increased risk of more severe COVID-19 outcomes for people over age 65, and those with compromised immune systems and/or underlying medical conditions.

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Diabetes Quebec points out that while people with diabetes who get COVID-19 are at higher risk of developing serious symptoms and complications, having diabetes does not increase your risk of contracting the virus.

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The organization says that while much is still unknown around COVID-19, people with diabetes may be more at risk for serious coronavirus outcomes because they have a weakened immune system.

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This may make it more difficult to fight the virus, and the “the risk of the disease progressing to severe symptoms is greater and the recovery time may be longer.”

The International Diabetes Federation also states that when people with diabetes develop a viral infection, “it can be harder to treat due to fluctuations in blood glucose levels and, possibly, the presence of diabetes complications.”

READ MORE: Can I go to the beach or someone’s backyard? Here’s how risky summer activities are

In Canada, approximately seven per cent of people aged 12 and older have diabetes, according to government data.

Diabetes is a disease where your body either can’t produce insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it produces, Diabetes Canada says. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas, and its job is to regulate blood sugar.

There are three major types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 — or insulin-dependent diabetes — often develops in childhood or adolescence, and people with this disease aren’t able to produce their own insulin because their body has attacked their pancreas.

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With Type 2 diabetes — the most common type — the body cannot properly use the insulin made by the body or the body doesn’t produce enough of it.

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Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and affects around three to 20 per cent of pregnant women. After a woman gives birth, it usually goes away.

Dr. Harpreet Bajaj, a Brampton, Ont.-based endocrinologist, previously told Global News that “Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease” that requires a combined treatment approach.

“Treatment is like a three-legged stool,” he said. “Diet and exercise is one leg. Testing [blood sugar] regularly is the second leg… Then the third leg is medications.”
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He said that if someone is in the prediabetes stage, heath and lifestyle intervention is key to “minimize the effects” of serious outcomes and complications.

For Canadians living with Type 1, insulin is vital and the only medically recognized way to treat the disease, Bajaj said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.